As reported by KTLA News, an Orange County plastic surgeon, Frederic H. Corbin, M.D., has been charged with sexual misconduct involving two female patients. Charges were apparently filed against the doctor on August 30th and pleas of not guilty were entered earlier this week. The charges against Dr. Corbin include sexual exploitation of a patient by a physician and sexual battery involving an unconscious person, among others.
California Criminal Law and Sexual Misconduct by Doctors
Under California law, it is unlawful for “[a]ny physician and surgeon…[to engage] in an act of sexual intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, or sexual contact with a patient or client”. (California Business and Professions Code Section 729(a)) The law does not allow a doctor to exploit their position as a professional for their own sexual gratification. If a doctor manipulates a patient into a sexual encounter or takes advantage of them while they are in a weakened or even unconscious state, the physician is guilty of a crime. If more than one victim is involved, under Section 729(a) the doctor can be charged with a felony crime.
In addition to the above Business and Professions Code Section, the California Penal Code also prohibits anyone from touching “an intimate part of another person for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, [where] the victim is at the time unconscious of the nature of the act because the perpetrator fraudulently represented that the touching served a professional purpose”. (California Penal Code Section 243.4(c)) While the specifics of the case against Dr. Corbin are not now known, it is easy to imagine how a doctor might misrepresent the need for certain touching when a patient presents to their office for a plastic surgery consultation. This kind of sexual battery by fraud is particularly troubling because the victim may not realize until much later that they have been victimized. Sexual predators who possess a medical degree present a particularly troubling danger to their patients and society as a whole.
Civil Remedies for Sexual Misconduct by Doctors
In addition to pursuing a criminal prosecution against a doctor for sexually abusing a patient, the victim may also seek compensation for their injuries and damages by bringing a civil claim against the doctor. Such cases can be complicated, but prosecution of a civil lawsuit is the only way to compensate a patient for their emotional distress and other damages.
One of the first issues that arises in these sexual misconduct cases has to do with the doctor’s right against self- incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. Because a criminal prosecution may be pending at the same time a civil lawsuit is being pursued, the doctor may assert his right against self-incrimination during the discovery phase of the civil case. For example, if the doctor is giving deposition testimony in the civil case, he may decline to and is entitled not to answer crucial questions about what happened. A defendant in a civil lawsuit has a right not to incriminate themself because of the potential for the evidence (usually deposition testimony) being used in the corresponding criminal case. Because of this, the civil discovery process may be delayed until the criminal case has been resolved. Once the criminal case is over, the right against self-incrimination no longer applies.
In addition to the Fifth Amendment issue, insurance issues often arise in sexual misconduct cases. Under California law, insurance coverage generally does not apply to situations where the conduct of the party being sued (the doctor) was willful. However, the doctor’s own assets are available to compensate the victim. Additionally, it is not uncommon to pursue a negligence claim against the medical facility where the misconduct occurred, assuming it did not occur in an office run by the doctor. Where a male doctor is allowed access to a female patient without a female staff member present, such as in a hospital or medical group office, the facility may be liable since that would violate most pertinent guidelines and policies. Such neglect allows a predatory doctor access to a female patient they should not have had and allows them the opportunity to abuse the patient. Consequently, the facility could be held liable for the victim’s injuries and damages.
If You Have Been a Victim of Sexual Misconduct
If you have been the victim of sexual misconduct by a physician, obtaining the assistance of an experienced injury attorney can be the most important step you take toward obtaining compensation. Mr. Ralph has more than 30 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including those involving sexual misconduct. He is available for a free consultation regarding your case and can be contacted via an e-mail or by calling the phone number above. Don’t let a predatory doctor get away with victimizing you.