Male Ob-Gyns Are Some Of The Most Prolific Predators In Society And They’re Flying Under The Radar

A woman’s visit to the ob-gyn can already be a nerve-wracking experience riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, but matters become exponentially worse when they experience abuse at the hands of a doctor who is supposed to care for them.

By Gina Florio4 min read
Shutterstock/Dikushin Dmitry

The issue of sexual abuse by male obstetricians and gynecologists (ob-gyns) is a deeply concerning aspect of the medical profession that often remains hidden and unaddressed. This type of abuse represents a gross violation of the trust and professional ethics that should underpin all medical care, especially in a field as intimate and sensitive as gynecology. Unfortunately, the personal and invasive nature of gynecological exams can create opportunities for abuse, often leaving victims feeling violated, helpless, and uncertain about distinguishing between necessary medical procedures and abusive behavior.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this issue is the frequency with which such abuse goes unchecked and unprosecuted. The power dynamics inherent in the doctor-patient relationship can deter victims from coming forward. Many fear they will not be believed or worry about the repercussions of accusing a medical professional of misconduct. This silence is further compounded by a medical establishment that can be reluctant to investigate accusations against practitioners, often circling the wagons to protect their own.

Statistics on the sexual abuse of patients by their ob-gyns are difficult to come by, as many cases go unreported. However, a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2016 found that over a period of 16 years, 2,400 doctors in the United States were sanctioned for sexual misconduct involving patients. Among these, gynecologists were disproportionately represented, underscoring the vulnerability of patients in this field. 

In response to growing awareness of this issue, some states and medical boards have begun to implement stricter regulations and oversight mechanisms, including mandatory chaperones during examinations and more rigorous background checks for practitioners. However, much work remains to be done. Victims need safe, confidential avenues to report abuse, and there must be swift and transparent investigations into any allegations. It’s only through a concerted effort to address and prevent abuse, along with a zero-tolerance policy for perpetrators, that trust in the medical profession can be restored and patient safety ensured.

Viral Stories of Ob-Gyn Abuse Are Surfacing 

In an emotional sentencing at a New York federal court in July 2023, Robert Hadden, a former gynecologist convicted of sexually abusing patients, received a 20-year prison sentence, marking a significant moment of justice for the numerous victims of his decades-long predatory actions. The ruling, delivered by Judge Richard M. Berman, addressed Hadden's "outrageous, horrific, beyond extraordinary, depraved sexual abuse" of at least 245 women, underlining the unparalleled nature of his crimes within the medical community.

Hadden's apology, offered through tears before the court, failed to convey genuine remorse to many of his victims and observers, reflecting a profound betrayal of the doctor-patient trust. His crimes, committed under the guise of medical treatment at prestigious institutions like Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, spanned from the late 1980s and included acts of molestation during gynecological exams. The gravity of these acts was magnified by the vulnerability of the women involved, many of whom were experiencing pregnancy, physical ailments, or their first gynecological visit.

The case against Hadden initially surfaced in 2012, culminating in a 2014 indictment as more women courageously came forward. However, a controversial 2016 plea deal with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, led then by Cyrus Vance Jr., significantly muted the legal consequences Hadden faced, avoiding jail time and registration as a sex offender, to the outrage of many victims.

The resurgence of attention to Hadden's atrocities, propelled by the #MeToo movement, ultimately led to federal charges in 2020, highlighting the interstate nature of his crimes. His federal trial conviction in January was a watershed, catalyzing a broader reckoning with institutional failures to protect patients and prompting legislative changes in New York to better support sexual abuse survivors.

The aftermath of Hadden's actions has not only catalyzed legal and institutional reforms but also spurred a collective outcry from survivors and advocates alike. The settlements exceeding $236 million with the hospitals involved signify a financial acknowledgment of the harm caused, yet the emotional and psychological scars borne by the survivors underscore a critical need for systemic change within medical and legal frameworks to prevent future abuse.

Notably, the personal stories of resilience and advocacy, such as those shared by Liz Hall and Dian Monson, reflect a powerful counter-narrative to the isolation and dismissal often experienced by victims of sexual abuse. Their efforts, alongside the testimony of Evelyn Yang, have spotlighted institutional negligence and the importance of accountability, not just for individual perpetrators but also for the environments that enable such abuse. In reflecting on the sentencing and its broader implications, the case of Robert Hadden stands as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities inherent in the medical system and the enduring strength of those who seek justice against seemingly insurmountable odds.

Some states have begun implementing stricter regulations, including mandatory chaperones during examinations and more rigorous background checks for practitioners.

George Tyndall, the former campus gynecologist at the University of Southern California (USC) who was also embroiled in a sizable scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse by hundreds of women, was found dead at his home in October 2023. His lawyer, Leonard Levine, confirmed the 76 year old's death, stating Tyndall was awaiting trial on numerous charges of sexual misconduct from his time at USC's student health center between 2009 and 2016. Despite his 2019 not-guilty plea and being on bond, a trial date had yet to be set. Tyndall's death was discovered by a close friend concerned after unreturned calls. Levine noted there was no indication of suicide or foul play.

Tyndall faced 27 criminal counts, including sexual battery by fraud and sexual penetration of an unconscious person, linked to 16 former patients. These charges spotlighted his long tenure at USC, where complaints of his misconduct date back to the 1990s, though he wasn't suspended until 2016 after a nurse reported him. His quiet resignation in 2017 included a financial settlement from USC, which faced massive legal settlements over the allegations. In 2021, USC agreed to an $852 million settlement with over 700 women, marking a record sum in such lawsuits against a university. Despite this, Tyndall didn't contribute to the settlement or admit wrongdoing.

Attorney John Manly, representing many of Tyndall's accusers, criticized the slow pace of the criminal proceedings, which added to the victims' trauma. With Tyndall's death, these women are left without the closure of a trial. In addition to the $852 million settlement, USC had previously agreed to a $215 million class-action settlement affecting around 18,000 women, with individual payouts ranging from $2,500 to $250,000, irrespective of formal accusations against Tyndall. Tyndall surrendered his medical license in September 2019, but the delay in criminal charges and his subsequent death have left many questioning the justice system's handling of the case.

How To Advocate for Yourself

Identifying signs of abuse at the ob-gyn is crucial for women to protect themselves from inappropriate behavior and ensure their medical encounters are safe and respectful. Understanding what constitutes normal practice can help distinguish between professional medical conduct and abuse.

Firstly, a legitimate gynecological exam should always be explained clearly by the healthcare provider, with each step announced before it happens. Patients should feel empowered to ask questions about any part of the examination. Any procedure that feels unnecessary or is not adequately explained could be a red flag.

Any procedure that feels unnecessary or is not adequately explained could be a red flag.

Secondly, the presence of a chaperone during exams is a common practice aimed at protecting both the patient and the physician. Patients have the right to request a chaperone if one is not offered, and they can specify their preference for the chaperone's gender. If a doctor resists or refuses this request without a valid reason, it may indicate inappropriate intentions.

Physical discomfort is expected to some degree during certain examinations; however, pain should not be dismissed by the doctor. If a patient expresses discomfort or pain, the doctor should stop immediately, reassess their approach, and ensure the patient's comfort and consent before proceeding. Privacy and dignity should be respected at all times. This means providing adequate coverings and ensuring that patients are not unnecessarily exposed during the exam. Inappropriate comments about a patient's body or sexual history that are not relevant to the medical consultation are unprofessional and can be considered a form of abuse.

If a woman feels that boundaries are being crossed, it is crucial to trust her instincts. She should end the appointment if possible and report the incident to the medical facility's administration, a medical board, or a legal authority. Seeking support from trusted individuals or advocacy organizations can also provide guidance on the next steps, including filing a formal complaint. 

Closing Thoughts

Remember, the patient's comfort, consent, and understanding are paramount in any medical setting. No one should feel violated or uncomfortable during an ob-gyn visit. Recognizing these signs and knowing how to respond empowers women to protect their health and well-being.

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