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An apple a day keeps a rotten one away…
Sandra Shaker, Beirut Evangelical School for Girls and Boys, Lebanon
The Oath of Hippocrates, an oath of ethics that most physicians swear to, articulates,
“Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all
intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and
male persons, be they free or slaves.” Regarding sexual assault the image of a health care
provider is seldom brought forth. This is due to the fact that physicians are the most respected
and trusted professionals. Yet some physicians cross this bright line and do not hesitate to
abuse their patients-especially female-sexually.
According to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), physician sexual misconduct
is “understood as behavior that exploits the physician-patient relationship in a sexual way.
Sexual behavior between a physician and a patient is never diagnostic or therapeutic. The
behavior may be verbal or physical, can occur in person or virtually, and may include
expressions of thoughts and feelings or gestures that are of a sexual nature or that a patient
may reasonably construe as sexual”. It is important to note that the term “sexual assault”
does not exist, rather “sexual misconduct” is considered a more suitable term for describing
this unethical behavior.
Despite the uncertainty of the actual number of serious ethical violations, recent cases suggest
that female patient sexual abuse is an ongoing issue. For example, on July 5th, in the summer
of 2022, a video went viral and sent shock waves on the internet. It was a video of Brazilian
anesthesiologist, Giovanni Quintella Bezerra, orally raping, heavily sedated, Thamires Souza
Reis da Silva Ribeiro during her caesarean surgery. Other of Bezerra’s patients are
apprehensive that they may have also been victims of the same violence. The video was taped
by nurses on the anesthesiologist’s team that questioned the quantity of sedative he used on
pregnant women and his movements behind the sheet that separated him from his colleagues.
Of the many factors that favor cases of physician sexual abuse to go unreported, is that
victims may lack the skills necessary to maneuver the regulatory system to seek recourse for
the harms of such a crime. Even if certain victims do file complaints, many hospitals and
health care organizations may not act on them. Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder of the Health
Research Group at Public Citizen, says, “over half of the physicians who were disciplined for
sex-related offenses by their state medical boards did not have their licenses revoked and,
therefore, are probably still practicing physicians”. In several cases, the penalty for serious
sexual misconduct was probation or constraints that prevent the doctor from examining
female patients but were permitted to continue practicing.
Do not tie your hair in a ponytail, wear flats and avoid high heels, and do not walk alone…
To add to the list of rape preventative measures that have become so internalized in young
women and little girls to the extent that they have made it their duty to protect themselves,
establishing a regulations that permits patients under sedation to record their medical
procedures is essential to prevent being exploited by physicians for their own sexual
gratification. However, with no immediate action, it is no surprise that most women are
starting to show a strong preference for female physicians.
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