For the majority of us we consider our GP or other medical professionals to be people who we can feel safe with when having a consultation.
Sadly, in the tiny minority of cases there are some medical professionals who will abuse their position of trust to satisfy their own needs. It can often start with grooming, then once a rapport and trust has been established the medical practitioner’s attentions can become more sexual in nature.
In February last year, the GP Dr Manish Shah was found guilty of committing 90 sexual assaults on female patients, bringing the total offences to 90 relating to 23 patients. A family planning doctor, he was found to have carried out intimate examinations for his own gratification. GP Manish Shah jailed for 90 sexual assaults on patients - BBC News.
A number of Shah’s victims are taking legal action against him to obtain proper redress and accountability, including an apology. Dr Shah was described by the Trial Judge Anne Molyneux as “a master of deception who abused his position of power”.
Emmott Snell recently represented a 12 year old victim of sexual assaults by a GP in a civil compensation claim issued in the High Court of Justice (‘AWL’ v Dr Saiyid Kaukab).
Our client Miss ‘A’ and her parents were patients of the surgery where Dr K worked. ‘A’ visited the surgery regularly, initially with her parents and then when she gained confidence she would visit the surgery and see him alone. As a 12 year old ‘A’ became troubled and vulnerable. She was having a difficult time at school and had been suspended.
She had been bullied at school and had attempted suicide. Dr K encouraged ‘A’ to visit him even if she just needed a chat. ‘A’ began to trust him and he would share personal details of his own family with her. He started to embrace her when she was leaving the consultation, which was a chest to chest embrace involving considerable body contact and became a routine part of any consultation ‘A’ attended with Dr K. ‘A’ thought that he was just being friendly but did not reciprocate.
In September 2007, Dr K put his hands on ‘A’s shoulders saying that he was proud of her and then proceeded to kiss her repeatedly on the lips, before embracing her.
‘A’ tried to pull away from Dr K but he continued to kiss ‘A’ on the cheek telling her that she was beautiful. Feeling uncomfortable, ‘A’ pulled away from Dr K.
‘A’, in shock, left Dr K’s consulting room and the surgery immediately. She reported the incident to her deputy headteacher the following day and the headteacher contacted the police.
The Police Investigation
‘A’ gave a video statement to the Essex Police and an investigation commenced. Dr K strenuously denied any wrongdoing and sought to persuade ‘A’ to conceal his actions. ‘A’s allegations were subsequently dropped by the police due to insufficient evidence.
The surgery’s response
A meeting was held with ‘A’, her parents and the GP surgery. Her allegations were not believed, and she felt victimised.
Following the No Further Action police investigation, A was told that she could no longer remain as a patient at the surgery.
She moved to a new surgery where a note was placed on her records stating that she needed to be seen with a chaperone. This remained on ‘A’’s records for 8 years. She felt humiliated and upset at her treatment by the surgery, as she always maintained she was telling the truth.
NHS investigation in 2015
In 2015, ‘A’ was contacted by her former GP practice to make a statement as further allegations of sexual assault against Dr K had come to light. ‘A’ made a detailed statement to NHS England. It is understood that NHS England conducted a full investigation into Dr K’s conduct while working in the NHS, and informed ‘A’ that as a consequence of the investigation Dr K would no longer appear on the National Performers List, meaning that he would be unable to provide NHS services as a GP. Dr K was not prosecuted further because he left the UK.
The effect of the abuse
During the course of the civil claim, ‘A’ was examined for the purposes of her civil action by a court expert who was a consultant psychiatrist whose report helped to quantify her claim. The expert found that ‘A’ suffered from an Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder; Bipolar affective disorder and substance misuse disorders, the causes of which were contributed to by the assaults/ abuse by Dr K. The expert also thought the sexual assaults increased the claimant's vulnerability to developing PTSD, and materially contributed to her subsequent behavioural problems at school and led to her dropping out.
Following the issue of court proceedings and some way into litigation an out of court settlement was proposed, and after negotiations with Dr K’s insurers a substantial five figure sum was achieved for ‘A’. The settlement sum reflects the gravity of the betrayal of trust and the lifelong consequences of it.
And in conclusion…
Being abused by a trusted medical practitioner can have an adverse psychological impact, which can range from distress to more recognised psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression or more seriously, complex post traumatic stress disorder. Having confided and placed enormous trust in a professional, when that person takes advantage of the doctor/patient relationship it can leave a deep scar.
Sexual assault compensation claims arising from such abuse are often complex and require specialist legal expertise. I would be pleased to help anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or assaults in the medical context, and assure sensitivity and approachability in what can be a distressing circumstances.