Have You Been Assaulted by a Medical Professional?

If you’ve been assaulted by a healthcare worker, it can shatter your trust in the medical industry forever. Unfortunately, medical assault is all too common. Studies have shown that rates of physical and verbal abuse of hospitalized patients by care workers may be as high as 22%. 

If you have been assaulted by a healthcare worker, you’re not alone, and you can get help to pursue justice. Below, we break down how these assaults can occur, the problems they cause for survivors, and the legal options available to those seeking justice.

Understanding Assault by a Medical Professional

Assault in a medical setting is a deliberate act by a healthcare provider that causes harm or fear of harm to a patient. It encompasses a range of actions that violate a patient’s physical integrity or sense of safety. In healthcare environments, where patients are often vulnerable and trust their providers implicitly, assault is a grievous breach of professional and ethical standards. 

In fact, in many medical abuse cases, the inherent power imbalance in patient-doctor relationships is actively exploited. Medical professionals might manipulate patients into believing that certain inappropriate behaviors are part of standard medical practice. In contrast, they may use their authority to coerce patients into actions or behaviors that are not medically necessary and are instead for their personal gratification.

While anyone can fall victim to this abuse, children, older adults, and disabled people are particularly vulnerable. It is important to recognize examples of assault so you can protect yourselves and others, or pursue justice after harm has occurred. 

Examples of Medical Assault 

There are many ways healthcare workers can abuse patients, but they can be broken down into three general categories:

Physical Assault 

Also known as medical battery, this includes any non-consensual physical interaction, such as hitting, slapping, or using excessive force during medical procedures. Even actions that may be part of routine care can be considered assault if performed without patient consent or in an abusive manner. This may look like:

  • Performing unnecessary procedures without patient consent.
  • Using excessive force or restraint without medical justification.
  • Touching or examining parts of the body without explicit consent.

Sexual Assault

Any non-consensual sexual activity or contact initiated by a healthcare provider falls under this category. This can include inappropriate touching, sexual comments, or coerced sexual acts during medical examinations or treatments, like:

  • Touching patients inappropriately while pretending to conduct an examination.
  • Manipulating patients into believing they must endure certain actions as part of their treatment when, in reality, these actions are abusive or exploitative.
  • Failing to respect patient boundaries and personal space, especially in sensitive areas.

Verbal Assault

This type of assault involves using abusive, threatening, or demeaning language towards a patient. Verbal assault can cause significant psychological trauma and erode the trust essential for effective medical care. Examples include:

  • Threatening to withhold treatment or care unless the patient complies with non-medical requests.
  • Using psychological pressure or guilt to obtain patient compliance with behaviors that are not consensual or medically justified.
  • Insulting or denigrating the patient and threatening to halt treatment if the patient complains. 

By understanding these various forms of assault and how they manifest in medical settings, patients can better recognize and address these serious violations. 

Recognizing Signs of Medical Assault

While it may seem counterintuitive, you may not immediately realize that you have been assaulted. However, if a medical professional abuses you while you are unconscious, or if they gaslight you and claim their behavior is required and not abusive, it may take time to realize you have been abused. 

That’s why recognizing the signs of assault is crucial for taking immediate action. Physical signs may include:

  • Unexplained injuries such as bruises, cuts, or abrasions, particularly in sensitive areas.
  • Physical discomfort or pain that cannot be attributed to known health conditions.
  • Signs of forced restraint or rough handling, including marks on wrists or ankles.

You may also notice behavioral and emotional indicators in yourself or a loved one who was assaulted, such as:

  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior, such as increased anxiety, depression, or withdrawal from social interactions.
  • Symptoms of trauma such as nightmares, flashbacks, or panic attacks.
  • Reluctance or fear of returning to the same medical professional or facility.

If you notice these issues, it is worth considering that you or your loved one has fallen victim to healthcare abuse and needs legal help. 

Impact of Medical Assault on Victims

Being assaulted is undoubtedly a traumatizing experience, but it impacts every survivor differently. Depending on the type of abuse and your individual circumstances, you may face physical, emotional, psychological, and even financial consequences due to the harm you’ve suffered. 

Physical Consequences

Victims of healthcare assault can suffer a range of physical injuries, which can vary in severity depending on the nature of the assault. These injuries might include:

  • Bruises, cuts, or abrasions resulting from rough handling or physical abuse.
  • More severe injuries, such as fractures or internal damage caused by excessive force during medical procedures.
  • Gynecological injuries, in cases of sexual assault, can lead to long-term reproductive health issues.

Additionally, the physical impact of medical assault can extend well beyond the immediate injuries. Chronic pain or disability caused by the initial assault may require ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation. If you were injured seriously, you may be at a greater risk of future health problems due to the physical trauma experienced. You may even be at risk for developing conditions related to stress and trauma, such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches, or other somatic symptoms.

Emotional and Psychological Consequences

The emotional and psychological toll of healthcare assault is often profound and long-lasting:

  • Many victims develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety related to the assault.
  • Depression and anxiety are common as victims struggle to process the betrayal of trust and the trauma of the assault.
  • Some victims may experience a diminished sense of self-worth and feelings of shame or guilt, further exacerbating mental health issues.

Furthermore, assault by a medical professional can severely damage a victim’s trust in the healthcare system. You may become fearful or anxious about seeking medical care and choose to avoid necessary treatments or check-ups to prevent another assault. Long-term, the fear of re-experiencing trauma can make it difficult for you to communicate effectively with new healthcare providers or consent to necessary health procedures.

The psychological repercussions of medical assault are not limited to healthcare scenarios, either. You may find that it impacts your personal life, too. Survivors often report strained relationships with partners, family members, and friends due to the emotional fallout from the assault. You may also struggle with intimacy and trust in personal relationships, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Overall, this can significantly affect your daily activities and quality of life as you cope with ongoing emotional and psychological distress.

Professional and Financial Consequences

For many people, the financial impact of medical assault can be substantial:

  • Victims often incur significant medical expenses for treating injuries and managing long-term health issues resulting from the assault.
  • Psychological support, including therapy and counseling, can be costly and may not be fully covered by insurance.
  • Legal expenses for pursuing justice against the perpetrator can add to the financial burden, including attorney fees, court costs, and potential lost wages from time spent dealing with legal proceedings.

That’s not all. You may find the aftermath of medical assault can have serious professional implications. Many people report finding it difficult to concentrate or perform at work due to the emotional and psychological effects of the assault. Some may need to take extended leave from work to recover, impacting their career progression and earning potential. In severe cases, you might be unable to return to your previous employment.

Understanding the multifaceted impact of the medical assault on victims is crucial for recognizing the severity of this issue and getting the care and justice you need to heal and move forward with your life.

What to Do After Medical Assaults

Assault by a medical professional is a grave violation of trust that can have lasting physical and emotional impacts. Suppose you believe you have been assaulted by a healthcare provider. In that case, it’s crucial to take immediate and decisive steps to protect your well-being and seek justice.

Reporting the Assault to Authorities

Taking prompt action to report the assault is essential. Contact local law enforcement to file a police report and initiate an investigation. Even if you do not file a police report, you should report the incident to relevant medical boards or regulatory bodies to ensure professional accountability. Provide as much detail as possible, including the time, date, and nature of the assault.

Seeking Medical Attention and Documenting Injuries

Immediate medical attention is crucial for both health and legal reasons. While it may be uncomfortable or even alarming to talk to medical professionals in the aftermath of a healthcare-related abuse, it’s important to get treatment for any injuries sustained during the assault.

Make sure that all your injuries are thoroughly documented by healthcare professionals, including photographs and detailed medical reports. It’s a good idea to request a copy of the medical records for personal documentation.

Consulting with a Trusted Friend or Family Member for Support

Emotional support from trusted individuals can provide significant strength. Consider sharing the incident with a trusted friend or family member who can offer emotional support and practical assistance. You can also involve them in the reporting process or when seeking medical and legal help to make the process less intimidating.

Filing a Complaint

Filing a formal complaint is a critical step in seeking justice. Contact the healthcare facility where the assault occurred and request their procedure for filing a complaint. It’s worthwhile to submit a detailed written complaint to the relevant regulatory bodies, outlining the nature of the assault and providing supporting documentation. You may need to follow up regularly to ensure that the complaint is being investigated.

Legal Options for Victims

If you have been abused by a healthcare worker, you have a variety of options for seeking justice. The most common course of action is a civil lawsuit against your attacker and potentially the institution where you were hurt. A civil claim lets you seek monetary compensation for damages you’ve suffered, including:

  • Medical Expenses: Reimbursement for all medical costs related to treating injuries and ongoing healthcare needs.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for income lost due to the inability to work following the assault.
  • Pain and Suffering: Monetary compensation for the physical and emotional pain endured as a result of the assault.

The amount of compensation awarded in medical abuse cases is determined based on several factors. The judge or jury will consider the severity of your injuries, the extent of your trauma, the financial losses you’ve suffered, and legal precedents from similar cases. 

In addition to civil lawsuits, victims can pursue criminal charges. This is the process of prosecuting the perpetrator for breaking the law, which can result in penalties such as fines or imprisonment but not damages. Initiating criminal proceedings typically involves working closely with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office. Both criminal and civil cases can be active at the same time. 

Regardless of the path you choose, it’s a good idea to work with a skilled personal injury lawyer to pursue your claim. An experienced attorney can provide legal advice, represent you in court, and help negotiate settlements. They can also assist in gathering evidence, filing legal documents, and ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the process.

Professional Legal Help for Medical Assault Survivors

Assault by a medical professional is a serious violation that can have lasting impacts on victims. If you or someone you know has been assaulted by a medical professional, seek help and pursue justice. Fiore Achermann is dedicated to providing the legal support needed to navigate this challenging process and secure the compensation and justice victims deserve. We encourage you to schedule your consultation today to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help you.