Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Harassment

The woman was in active labor and feeling the pain that goes along with it. In the room with her were her husband, an OB resident, and myself. The OB resident rubbed her leg in a reassuring way. That gesture in itself, a brief pat or rub of the lower leg to offer comfort, was not that unusual, but then it got weird. The resident, a man, started rubbing her upper leg, along the inner thigh, going up and down, up and down, getting uncomfortably close to her business area. He acted like he was simply trying to calm her.

The woman looked at her husband with an anxious expression, one that became more anxious as this continued. The husband, looking uncertain as to what to do in this unusual and uncomfortable situation, seemed to be avoiding her looks. Finally the resident stopped the rubbing and the labor story went back to normal.

This happened when I was a third year medical student. If it happened today, I'd haul the resident into the hallway and tell him to knock it off, but I'm sorry to say I didn't do anything about it then. Partly, it was because as a third year student you are pretty low on the totem pole. I mean, this resident would be filling out an evaluation on me - a bad excuse, I know - and he probably would have denied he was doing anything wrong. Partly I didn't do anything because like the husband, I could hardly believe it was happening. Also, this was long before Clarence Hill was confirmed as a Supreme Court justice and sexual harassment came to the fore of America's consciousness.

I'm glad to say that personally I have seen practically no instances of a physician taking sexual advantage of a patient, other than the episode above. Maybe women will tell me otherwise, but I suspect it doesn't happen too often, at least not in the labor and delivery area where I would see it. That's not a surprise to me. No offense to anyone, but a very pregnant, laboring woman is simply neither sexy nor tempting.

Physicians who do take sexual advantage of women must be real scumbags. It's pretty sad that they have to resort to it to get their jollies, because frankly, having an M.D. behind your name gives you a bit of a head start with many women whom you might be trying to impress in a legitimate dating sort of way. I have little sympathy for them if they are caught. Off with their heads, I say, or at least off with their licenses.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Ami said...

Is there more training and ethics taught regarding 'keep away from the patients' since harassment has become such an issue?

It really is a low character who takes advantage of patients who come to them for help. Their compassion can be a completely different experience from what the woman is used to if she is suffering from an abusive relationship. They represent an altruistic authority that could be awe inspiring to a woman. How many woman claim to have crushes on their docs? It can be an innocent reaction, and I suspect would be expecially common in the woman who was vulnerable. Any doctor who takes advantage of that really is scum.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incidents of sexual harassment of patients are probably few in number but I have been a RN for 27 years and the incidents of sexual harassment I have been subjected to and have witness would appal most people. In most hospitals nurses are still without real power. Docs have a great deal of power because they bring in the money.

11:00 PM  
Blogger littlema said...

Nice to have you back. I guess there is always a fine line that needs to be taken - it's just sad that some use it to their advantage to those that are in vunrable situations such as childbirth.

4:45 AM  
Blogger bryanboling said...

I used to work in an ED and we had a resident who no one could really say for sure whether he was a scumbag or just clueless. I myself wavered back an forth - he WAS pretty clueless - but our Chief Resident pretty much made up his mind - scumbag. He worked to get him tossed out - as did a few attendings and for more than just his ickiness (he really was pretty incompetent), but it never went anywhere.

He used to do things like carefully examine the breasts of college girls who had been in minor fender-benders and sometimes leave them completely exposed during the exam. We'd usually cover them up as soon as he was done with an area (often the chest), but he'd find some reason to uncover them again.

The Chief Resident said that TECHNICALLY, the guy was just being thorough and hadn't really done anything wrong, but he also said, "I just feel dirty watching it."

Like I said, you couldn't really put your finger on it, but there was something wrong about it.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It strikes me as some wierd sense of power... like, for just a brief minute he realized he could do anything he wanted and no one was going to really do anything about it. It's like he pushed the limits until almost the breaking point and then stopped. *sigh* He's probably married to my sister.... who is, of course, a creepy physician.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in a hospital's medical records department when I was about 18. I encountered quite a few docs who were a little "overly flirtatious" and just shrugged it off. It works both ways in all fairness as many female hospital staff workers do the same thing to the Docs.

There was one Dr. who did make me a bit uncomfortable though. While helping him with the dictaphones, he hand would always "accidentally" brush across my breast or bum. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt given that the dictation cubicles were so cramped especially for two people, I figured accidents could happen but then it just became too predictable. If I pulled reports up for him on the computer he would slide his hands under my scrubs to massage my shoulders and it always came too close to my breasts. I never said anything (mainly because I was 18 and afraid I would lose my job if I did)

As a patient, I never experienced anything unprofessional from my doctors. I would expect that doesn't happen much these days given our litigious society.

Julie

1:08 PM  
Blogger The MSILF said...

Glad you're back!

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was probably 6 or 7 years old and in the doc's office for a routine physical. My parents weren't in the room. While lying on the table (in a gown) my areolas were measured with a measuring tape and my business examined by spreading "them" with his fingers. There was no penetration but even at the time I thought it was strange. I never mentioned anything to my parents because, well, it was icky and I didn't want them to think I was crazy.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 10 years ago when I was in my mid-30's, I went to see an internist about an enlarged thyroid. I put on a paper gown as instructed, the kind that's has a little plastic tie that keeps the gown closed. I had also been instructed to remove all clothing from the waist up.

About 1 minute into the exam, the doctor ripped open the paper gown and examined my breasts, rather more intently than I thought to be professional. I wasn't told he would do this, nor was I asked if I wanted a chaperone. Needless to say, I couldn't keep the gown closed from that point on. He did go on and examine my thyroid, BTW.

During this whole exam, I didn't say a word, even though I knew his behavior was barely appropriate. And this wasn't a clueless resident; it was a man in his 40's on the staff of an Ivy League medical school. I was just so caught off guard by the whole thing, that I simply couldn't react quickly enough to say something.

I believe a doctor like the above does things like this because they simply can, and they by and large get away with it.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Ninotchka said...

"a very pregnant, laboring woman is simply neither sexy nor tempting"

I'm afraid that's a rookie comment, and shows a lack of knowledge about sexual assault.

Sexual assault doesn't happen because the assaulted person is "sexy" or "tempting". It happens because some bozo needs his power fix. Believe me, the child or senior who is raped or fondled hasn't been assaulted because she is "sexy".

What a scumbag that guy was. I can only hope that, wherever he is, he's long since groped the wrong woman and subsequently lost his ability to practice.

8:26 AM  
Blogger MrsGrizzle said...

Anonymous 1:08

I had written a comment similar to yours but decided not to post it since I was not a patient who received harassment, nor had I witnessed any of the physicians in my hospital harassing a patient.

However, there were a couple of physicians who were notorious for sexually harassing their subordinates. I was a transcriptionist and would even get comments over the dictation. I laughed most of it off, but I quit laughing one day when a doctor embarrassed me in front of my coworkers. I do not customarily wear makeup, but happened to do so one morning, and he informed the rest of the team that I must have "gotten laid right" because I looked so good that morning. I was never physically harassed but always avoided those physicians because of their comments.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had me thinking you were on the right track until you said this:

"No offense to anyone, but a very pregnant, laboring woman is simply neither sexy nor tempting."

Ninotchka was right, what a rookie comment. Was that supposed to be tongue in cheek?? You don't refrain from molesting a pregnant laboring woman because she's not "sexy or tempting" -- you refrain because you're supposed to be a trusted professional and it's the right thing to do. Dear god I hope you were joking.

1:57 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Julie, that doctor massaging your shoulders under your shirt is molesting you. And anonymous 9:40, any male doctor that examines a woman without another woman present is nuts.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Doc's Girl said...

Wow...lots of stories...

Mine isn't too complicated--I was having chest pain, high heart rate back in the day. When I was waiting to get my EKG, I admit that I was people watching and checking out some of the residents that walked by. (You guys know my love of scrubs. :-P) One smiled at me and I smiled at him--completely innocent. When the tech showed up, she closed the curtain and we were chatting and suddenly, the curtain opens. It was smiling resident looking directly at my chest (still had a bra on) (a bright, red bra, no less) and said "oops, sorry, wrong patient."

The tech and I were mortified.

Years LATER, I ended up working in the ER with the SAME resident. Talk about feeling creepy around him...

Yeah, sometimes, little things just rub you the wrong way.

9:31 AM  
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1:38 AM  

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