Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault Lawyer
In November 2022, prosecutors filed sex crime charges against a Minnesota plastic surgeon who lost his license after state regulators ruled that he molested several female clients during appointments at his clinic.
That same year, a Florida cosmetic surgeon was arrested on two counts of sexual battery in Naples, Florida. The charges stemmed from allegations brought by two female clients. The doctor later died by suicide.
The year before, a plastic surgeon in California was charged with sexually assaulting two of his female patients while he was treating them in his office.
When patients go into any type of medical facility or clinic, they expect that they will be safe. Physicians and healthcare providers owe a duty to patients to create a safe space for them to be treated. Unfortunately, several cosmetic surgery offices and personnel have failed in this duty.
A 50-state examination by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) found that only one state—Delaware—“has anything close to a comprehensive set of laws protecting patients from doctors who commit acts of sexual abuse.”
An AJC investigation also uncovered “450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct or sex crimes in 2016 and 2017.” In nearly half of those cases, the doctors remained licensed to practice medicine.
Chaffin Luhana is currently investigating cosmetic surgery sexual assault cases in which clients were sexually assaulted while attending an office visit or undergoing treatment. Give our experienced cosmetic sexual assault attorneys a call today to schedule a complimentary consultation at 888-480-1123.
What Is Cosmetic Surgery?
The goal of cosmetic surgery is “to improve a person’s appearance, self-esteem, and self-confidence,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Treatments include surgical and nonsurgical procedures that help enhance and reshape structures of the body.
In some cases, treatments redesign the body’s contour and shape, smooth wrinkles, or tighten areas of skin. In others, certain parts of the body are augmented or diminished depending on what the client is looking for.
There are many different types of cosmetic surgery. The most common ones, according to Hopkins Medicine, include:
- Breast augmentation
- Breast implant removals
- Breast lift
- Buttock lift
- Chin, cheek, or jaw reshaping
- Eyelid lift
- Forehead lift
- Hair replacement or transplantation
- Lip augmentation
- Nose reshaping
- Thigh lift
- Tummy tuck
- Upper arm lift
- Botox injections
- Cellulite treatment
- Chemical peel
- Collagen or fat injections (facial rejuvenation
- Laser skin resurfacing
- Laser treatment of leg veins
What Are the Risks of Cosmetic Surgery?
All surgeries and medical procedures come with some risks. Cosmetic procedures are no exception.
In a 2015 study, researchers reported on the rise in minimally invasive procedures, which are typically expected to come with fewer risks. They noted that with long-term follow-up, however, they were seeing more adverse events with minimally invasive soft-tissue fillers. These complications could not only be persistent but could lead to serious complications like permanent blindness.
More invasive procedures typically come with more serious risks. In a review of medical thigh lifts, researchers found that 42.72 percent of patients studied suffered from minor complications. “Even a simple procedure such as a skin biopsy may lead to complications,” researchers wrote, “if not performed meticulously.”
Common complications of cosmetic surgeries may include:
- Hematoma and bruising
- Seroma (fluid buildup) formation
- Nerve damage
- Blood loss
- Complications of anesthesia
- Blood clots
Patients who smoke, have a weakened immune system, are obese, have diabetes, or have poor circulation are at a higher risk of complications.
What Is Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault?
Cosmetic surgery sexual assault is a form of medical malpractice that violates a patient’s rights and the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) code of ethics for physicians.
Forms of sexual abuse by doctors on patients may include:
- Unwelcome sexual remarks
- Inappropriate questions that make patients feel uncomfortable
- Inappropriate or non-consensual physical touch
- Performing unnecessary exams
- Taking advantage of patients who are unconscious or under the influence of medication
The Federation of State Medical Boards categorizes sexual violations by health professionals into two categories:
- Sexual misconduct: This may include watching the patient undress and making inappropriate sexual comments or performing examinations on a patient’s genitals without informed consent.
- Sexual assault: This refers to sexual activity or contact without consent, including when the patient has been coerced or manipulated or is unable to give consent.
If you are the victim of sexual misconduct or assault, report the misconduct to the doctor’s office, group, or hospital. For cases of serious misconduct and assault, report the actions to law enforcement. Then contact your cosmetic surgery sexual assault attorney for help.
What Are the Signs of Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault?
If you were assaulted while undergoing surgery, you may be uncertain or confused about whether the assault took place. Some indicators can help you determine whether you or a loved one was abused during medical care.
- Fear, paranoia, and general skittishness
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance abuse
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder
In the AJC investigation mentioned earlier, researchers found scores of cases where doctors were accused of sexually violating patients who were under anesthesia or sedated. In the cases where the abusers were discovered, it was typically because the patients weren’t completely anesthetized, DNA was discovered, or a witness spoke up and was believed.
In one specific case where a doctor abuser admitted to sexually assaulting two sedated patients—and was jailed for it—he was found out “when a woman awakening from anesthesia after a colonoscopy saw his penis and felt someone wipe her mouth and cheek. She went to police, and a swab of her mouth and throat revealed sperm.”
This shows that if you ever suspect assault, reporting it immediately can help strengthen your case and bring your abuser to justice.
How Prevalent is Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault?
Unfortunately, sexual assault in the cosmetic surgery industry is more common than most people might expect.
According to a 2022 study, “Medicine has the highest rate of sexual misconduct among scientific fields… Within surgery, sexual misconduct occurs at alarming rates, victimizing both patients and caregivers. Plastic surgery is one of five specialties most commonly accused of sexual misconduct…”
In an earlier study, researchers examined 101 cases of sexual violations in medicine. They analyzed these cases to characterize the doctors, patients, practice setting, kinds of sexual violations, and consequences to the perpetrator.
The results showed that most cases involved a combination of five factors:
- Male doctors
- Older than the age of 38
- Were not board-certified
- Practiced in nonacademic settings
- Always examined patients alone
Almost all cases involved repeated abuse of multiple victims that continued for more than a year. In 19 percent of sodomy cases, the abuse occurred with a chaperone, parent, nurse, or other individual in the room with the patient. The data also indicated that professional breaches during medical training predicted future breaches as a physician.
The researchers noted that a “striking feature of these cases is that they can occur without obvious ‘red flags’…” In all cases except rape, the perpetrators showed no outward signs of a personality disorder. The incidences occurred in both solo and larger medical practices alike, and they involved patients who were particularly vulnerable as well as patients who exhibited no special vulnerabilities other than being a patient.
Based on these results the researchers recommended the following:
- The basic material taught in sexual boundary remediation training courses should be a standard part of training in the medical profession.
- Medical students should be taught the prevalence of sexual abuse by physicians and be encouraged to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.
- Students should be trained on best practices for responding immediately when abuse is observed.
- To overcome the difficulty in obtaining data on cases of sexual abuse in medicine, states should make board documents open access. Medical boards should also be required to report whenever patients are sexually abused by doctors.
- Chaperones should be formally trained on how to respect privacy while providing appropriate oversight.
Patients Are Afraid to Speak Up
The study above also found that in many cases, patients were reluctant to say anything about the abuse. Some suspected inappropriate behavior but were too surprised or confused to speak up. Other patients ignored inappropriate remarks and touching until the doctors’ behavior escalated to sexual assault.
Sometimes there is a high level of shame associated with this type of assault. The patient may worry that it was their fault somehow, or that speaking up may expose them to harm.
Patients are never at fault for inappropriate sexual abuse by physicians. But if a patient is sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted, they need to be empowered to report that abuse.
Cosmetic Physicians Who Assault Patients Must Be Held Responsible
Too often, doctors who are accused of sexual harassment and abuse are allowed to continue to practice medicine.
In its investigation, the AJC found that 2,400 doctors were publicly sanctioned by medical authorities after being accused of sexually abusing patients. Researchers also found that many violations never came to the attention of state regulators.
There are many possible reasons for this. Some victims are afraid to say anything. Colleagues and nurses often stay silent. Hospitals and healthcare organizations brush off accusations or quietly push doctors out, often without reporting them to the police or licensing agencies.
The AJC found that physician-dominated medical boards “gave offenders second chances.” Prosecutors also dismissed or reduced charges so doctors could keep practicing and avoid sex offender registries.
Doctors and the institutions they work for must be held responsible for their actions or inactions. Victims who stand up and file civil lawsuits can be part of the solution.
When Should I Call A Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault Lawyer?
If you see signs of sexual abuse or assault or suspect that you were assaulted, it can be a very frightening experience. You may not know where to turn and be afraid to tell anyone.
A cosmetic surgery sexual assault lawyer can help guide you in your next steps, so you can take back your power and potentially hold those responsible liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
It may feel uncomfortable to discuss your case with a lawyer, but everything you say is confidential. You can choose to file a lawsuit anonymously if you prefer.
Meanwhile, your cosmetic surgery sexual assault attorney will carefully investigate the incident, the doctor, and the medical center involved to help uncover any wrongdoing. While you focus on getting the help you need to recover, your attorney will go to work making sure that those responsible are held liable for their actions (or inactions).
What Do I Do If I’m Sexually Assaulted By A Cosmetic Surgeon?
If you think you have experienced sexual abuse by a medical professional, you have the following options:
- Call 911 to report the assault to law enforcement.
- Contact the hospital, doctor’s office, or facility where you experienced the abuse and report it.
- Report the incident to your state’s medical licensing board.
- Contact a cosmetic surgery sexual assault attorney.
It’s also important for you to speak to someone who is trained to help. You may want to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
Next, you may want to see another doctor that you trust. In cases of sexual assault, you may be asked if you’re willing to undergo a SART or SANE exam. This involves a medical check and the collection of physical evidence, which may include photos of any injuries (bruises, lacerations, tears).
Once all the evidence is collected, it becomes part of a SART kit that is signed over to the police. You always have the right to refuse a SART exam or to refuse only parts of it. The evidence, however, can help fortify your case.
Next, document whatever you remember of the incident in your own words. Getting everything down in writing may trigger strong emotions, but it will help you recount the event in the future when you need to.
You’ll want to record:
- Date and time of the incident
- The location where the incident occurred
- Any details about the assailant you can remember
- Any other details about the assault that you can recall
Finally, it’s critical that you feel supported as you work to recover from a sexual assault. Consider joining a sexual assault support group to work through the healing process.
Who is Liable in Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault Lawsuit?
As a victim of sexual assault by a physician, you have two main legal options.
- Pursue criminal charges against the physician who committed the assault. Reporting the incident to local law enforcement may lead to criminal charges against the offender.
- File a civil lawsuit. If you and your sexual assault attorney decide that you may be able to recover compensation for your damages, you can sue your assailant and/or the medical institution he or she worked for.
If you file a civil lawsuit and you are successful, you may win compensation to help pay for assault-related expenses like medical bills, therapy costs, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.
How to Find a Professional Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault Attorney?
It may feel overwhelming after surviving a sexual assault incident to try to find a qualified cosmetic surgery sexual assault attorney. The following steps can make the process a little easier.
1. Look for Experience
Look for a lawyer with specific experience handling sexual assault cases—preferably, medical sexual assault cases. Such an individual will understand the complex nature of these cases and will know what is needed to make a successful case.
Check the attorney’s track record and reviews. If you schedule a free consultation, ask about other cases like yours that the attorney has handled.
2. Ask About Court Experience
Most personal injury lawsuits are settled out of court, which means some attorneys have little to no experience going to trial. Look for someone with court experience.
Such an individual will not back down simply to avoid the complication of a trial. That person will do everything possible to secure the compensation you deserve. They will also have the clout you need to negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf.
3. Do They Have the Resources?
Most sexual assault attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they won’t charge you for their time unless they win your case. Meanwhile, they need to have sufficient resources to secure expert witnesses, research and investigate your case, and gather the evidence needed.
Look for a firm that you know will be able to do everything necessary to prepare your case, and that won’t be limited because they don’t have the connections or financial resources to do so.
4. Look for Compassion
Sexual assault cases are particularly personal and traumatic. Your attorney must be able to manage communications with you in an empathetic and compassionate way. If it seems like they are brushing over your concerns or are not listening to you, that’s a red flag. Look for someone who genuinely cares about your well-being.
Tips for Staying Safe When Undergoing Cosmetic Surgery
Considering that there are some unscrupulous physicians out there, follow these safety tips:
- Make sure that the surgeon is board-certified
- Check online for reviews of that surgeon and/or medical center
- Make sure you feel comfortable with the surgeon before the surgery
- Request that a chaperone always be present during your appointments
- Understand what is appropriate during physical examinations. Feel free to ask for an explanation of what is occurring and why.
- Ask the medical center if they perform background checks on their surgeons
Cosmetic Surgery Sexual Assault Lawsuits
Many patients have already filed sexual assault lawsuits against their physicians and the medical institutions they worked for.
In 2016, for instance, two patients who claimed they were sexually assaulted during or immediately after procedures in which they were anesthetized filed lawsuits against their physicians and the related facilities. In one of the cases, the male surgeon was already facing 26 felony counts in multiple sexual assault allegations against him.
In 2019, a University of Wisconsin-Madison plastic surgeon was accused in a lawsuit of sexual exploitation and medical negligence in his care of a woman who had undergone cosmetic procedures by him. That same surgeon was the subject of a sexual misconduct case in New York before he was hired by the university.
If you or a loved one was assaulted while undergoing cosmetic surgery, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. Chaffin Luhana is now investigating these cases and invites you to call today at 888-480-1123 for a free legal consultation
Frequently Asked Questions
What is regarded as sexual assault?
The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include rape or attempted rape, fondling, and unwanted sexual touching.
What is an example of sexual abuse in healthcare?
Sexual assault in a healthcare setting may involve a physician who engages in unwanted touching or fondling during a medical exam, or who performs inappropriate or unnecessary examinations of the genitals or breasts without a medical reason. Sexual assault may also occur while the patient is under anesthetized and unaware of what’s going on.
What is inappropriate touching by a doctor?
Some examples of inappropriate touching by a doctor include:
- Touching a patient in a way that feels sexual.
- Failing to get consent before conducting an exam.
- Performing unnecessary examinations on private parts
What happens when a doctor is accused of sexual assault?
An allegation of abuse typically triggers an investigation by the state medical board. If the doctor is convicted, he or she will most likely receive disciplinary action and may lose his or her license. If a patient reports abuse or assault and the medical center does nothing, he or she should contact a sexual abuse lawyer for help.