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MSU faces potential liability for failures related to physician sexual assault allegations

When we talk about medical malpractice on this blog, we are usually speaking specifically about the liability a doctor faces for acting negligently with respect to his or her professional duties. Medical malpractice, in this sense, is only one part of the total picture of liability for harm to a patient, though. In many cases, it is not only the physician that can face liability for patient harm, but also the hospital staff that assisted in the medical care or treatment and the hospital which employed the physician.

Hospital liability can arise in a number of ways, including failure to properly credential a physician, failure to ensure oversight of the physician’s work, or failing to take timely action when a destructive pattern is noticed. Hospitals can potentially face liability not only for physician’s mistaken judgments, but also for their misconduct.

Right now, Michigan State University is facing potential liability for failures related to a physician facing a total of 22 sexual assault charges stemming from his time as a doctor at the University. He was fired last September, and now a total of 80 females have accused him of sexual assaulting them while he was supposed to be performing examinations or procedures.

A particular focus of the litigation are the University’s policies related to written informed consent for intervaginal procedures and its standards for MSU doctors who volunteer their time off campus. The policies, most of which are new, were a response to sexual assault allegations against the doctor. Although some parts of the policies were imposed on the doctor after early allegations, the University allegedly failed to ensure his compliance, causing harm to additional patients.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this story, the importance of informed consent in medical care, and how an experienced attorney can help a patient who has been harmed a physician’s negligence or misconduct.   

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