When and How To File a Doctor Harassment Complaint

When and How To File a Doctor Harassment Complaint

Whether you visit a psychiatrist, neurologist, oncologist, or any other type of doctor, they are all supposed to treat you with respect and dignity. This is because there is an inherent power imbalance in the doctor-patient relationship that makes it easy for a malicious person to manipulate and abuse a patient. Of course, doctors are held to a very high standard and are taught in-depth how to approach, speak, and examine a patient, so they feel safe and cared for. However, doctors are people, and just like people, they can use their power to do bad things. If this happens, they need to be held accountable for their actions. If a medical professional has mistreated or abused you, let’s take a comprehensive look at when and how to file a doctor harassment complaint. 

Defining Harassment

The law defines harassment as the assault, battery, stalking, or threat of violence that harms, frightens, or aggravates a person. Ultimately, harassment can fall into four categories: verbal, written, visual, and physical. In addition, these categories can further divide into various subcategories, such as sexual harassment, psychological harassment, verbal abuse, and more.

If your experiences don’t perfectly fit into or align with any of these categories or subcategories, this does not mean your experiences are invalid or that you shouldn’t report them. Harassment looks incredibly different depending on the victim and the alleged aggressor. Additionally, despite what some people may tell you, harassment of any kind can happen to anyone. While some groups may be more vulnerable, no one should belittle or ignore your experiences.

What Doctor-Patient Harassment Can Look Like

Again, doctor-patient harassment can look very different based on the situation, but to keep things simple, let’s review some examples of harassment that fall into the four categories. If your doctor insults you, disrespects you, makes inappropriate jokes, or threatens you, these actions can constitute verbal harassment. These very same abusive actions can be in written form, whether it be on your paperwork, chart, or even digitally through a patient portal. Physical and sexual harassment is where things can get a little tricky, as it can take on forms that are much subtler and more insidious.

While a doctor might strike or push a patient, physical abuse a medical professional enacts often doesn’t look that way. Often, this physical abuse looks like unnecessarily holding a patient down, unnecessary or painful procedures, purposefully giving the wrong drugs such as sedatives, or other actions that cause physical harm. Sexual harassment can be similar to physical harassment and appear as invasive or inappropriate procedures to examine or touch a patient’s genitals or sex characteristics. It can also be outright sexual advances or behaviors such as molestation or rape.

When To File a Complaint

Ideally, a victim would file a complaint directly after the abuse occurs, but this isn’t always the case, nor is it always possible. Many victims need time to process what occurred or may feel afraid to speak out for various reasons. These feelings and reservations are perfectly understandable and normal for people who have experienced any kind of harassment. However, a statute of limitations (SOL) determines how long you have to report before you can no longer take legal action or file a complaint. 

These SOLs can also vary widely by state. In some areas, you have three to six years from the date of the incident to submit a complaint. On the other hand, some states only give you a year or two to file a lawsuit. While it’s important to take your time and do what you’re comfortable with, it’s also important to be aware of these time frames to make the best decision for yourself.

How To File a Complaint

When you’re ready to file a complaint against your doctor or any other medical professional, you have two choices. You can go to the front desk and ask for the HR department’s contact information, and a human resources manager should be able to direct you from there. Alternatively, you can directly call your state’s medical board.

Much like for SOLs, the process of filing a complaint varies from state to state. Some states allow you to file electronically, others over the phone, or others by mailing a physical document. Ultimately, when you call the medical board, they will be able to tell you exactly, and in detail, what you need to do. You should also expect to provide as many details as you can about what occurred.

What To Expect After Filing a Complaint

Unfortunately, when you file a complaint, it doesn’t guarantee the doctor will face disciplinary action. However, if multiple people file complaints against the same doctor, the board will likely launch an investigation, especially if the complaints are of a similar nature.

The process is generally as follows: once you file a complaint, the board reviews it to determine if a violation occurred. If they determine that a violation did occur, then they could launch an investigation.

Again, though you can’t guarantee an investigation, you can guarantee your complaint will remain completely anonymous. If you wish to know if your complaint triggers an investigation, you will likely have to provide your name, phone number, and address.

When Harassment Turns Into Malpractice

For most people, the definition of medical malpractice evokes thoughts of a negligent doctor and a procedure gone awry, but this isn’t always the case. Medical malpractice is a negligent or omitted act that causes injury or harm to a patient. This harm does not have to be the result of a botched surgery. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a physical injury at all. If your doctor damages you emotionally or psychologically, it’s still medical malpractice, as it breaks the code of ethics that they signed when they became a doctor. If you’re the victim of medical malpractice, you should consider going beyond a formal complaint and filing a lawsuit against your doctor to receive the appropriate compensation.

If you have any further questions regarding when and how to file a doctor harassment complaint or are seeking legal representation, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder today. As an experienced patient rights attorney, you can trust that Tamara Holder will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve.

When and How To File a Doctor Harassment Complaint

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