Sexual activity between any medical professional and a patient is always wrong and always constitutes malpractice. This is especially true for mental health professionals, whose patients can be exquisitely vulnerable to someone who holds out the false promise of love and romance. Under both law and medical ethics, the therapeutic relationship is recognized as too imbalanced for the usual attitude that consenting adults can do in private whatever they agree to.
More obviously, unconsented sexual touching – often in the guise of a physical “examination” – also amounts to malpractice.
For patients who find themselves in – or having ended – a sexual relationship with a health care professional, there are two problems in considering a malpractice claim:
- Malpractice insurance policies now usually deny coverage to any therapist who has engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient. That makes it difficult for patients to recover money damages, since the uninsured therapist can declare bankruptcy and frustrate efforts to collect more than nominal sums.
- It can be hard for juries to understand that someone who has “voluntarily” engaged in sex with a therapist should have a right to sue that therapist and collect money.
That can make sexual malpractice lawsuits difficult to win and difficult to collect even if you do win. That said, every case needs to be examined on its own facts. For example, the lack of insurance might be overcome in a case if the misbehaving therapist is employed by a group practice, hospital or other institution that can be held responsible for the misconduct. And jury education can often overcome the bias and misunderstanding about sexual activities with a health care professional. The simple fact is that any professional who gets sexually involved with a patient has betrayed a fundamental trust, and financial accountability can be an important remedy.
Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
If you believe you or a family member has been seriously injured from medical malpractice, medical error, or neglect by a doctor, hospital, nurse, clinic, nursing home or other health care provider, you may want to click here to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney for a free evaluation of your case. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 202-742-1500 or 888-625-6635 toll-free. We will respond within 24 hours. There is no charge for our initial consultation.