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Rein in 'doctors behaving crudely' toward their surgery patients

Rein in 'doctors behaving crudely' toward their surgery patients
The roboticsurgery suite at Children's Hospital of Orange ounty in the city of Orange. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I read with disgust about the obscene behavior of surgeons in operating rooms fondling the genitals of unconscious patients. But I was more outraged by medical consultant Robert J. Pegritz, who offers the excuse that "a little steam MUST be released" and describes what amounts to sexual molestation as a "victory dance." ("Medical community reflects on 'disgusting and scandalous' episodes in the operating room," Aug. 22)

Would he feel the same if it were his genitals that were being manhandled against his will? Or his wife's or his daughter's? Any person putting herself in an unconscious, vulnerable position in order to receive surgery has a right to trust her doctors not to sexually abuse her.

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Any medical personnel found guilty of such a violation — or of witnessing it and not reporting it appropriately — should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Chellie Campbell, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Reading these disgusting anecdotes of doctors behaving crudely around their anesthetized patients brought back many painful memories of my medical school training at USC in the late 1970s. I was one of 20 women in a class of 120, and sexism was rampant in those days. I'm now a 65-year-old retired family physician, but I still remember a lecture given by one of our obstetrics and gynecology professors on women's health.

At the end he projected a cartoon that showed a huge monument of a women upside down with her legs apart and a little man on top of the monument looking down onto the vagina. The professor ended his lecture with the following quote: "I will end my lecture by saying that all women should be looked at as a hole."

My male classmates were as horrified as we women students were. I don't recall anything ever being said or done about this totally offensive and inappropriate statement.

How incredibly sad we are still dealing with these sexist attitudes and behaviors in the medical community and maintaining our "code of silence."

Janis Neuman, MD, Riverside

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To the editor: Although I have no doubt that there have been enough incidents of unethical conduct in the medical profession, the examples provided by this article were more indicative not of misconduct, but of a lapse in judgment (albeit highly offensive) in one case and excessive exuberance in the other.

If those who wrote about these incidents intended to provide a learning moment, they failed. A discussion of issues such as unnecessary surgeries, dubious treatment claims, inappropriate sexual conduct, falsifying data in medical studies, failure to disclose a conflict of interest or billing fraud would have been more enlightening for a discussion of professional ethics.

Yes, our profession does have a few bad apples in the bushel, but thankfully they are exceptions and not the rule.

John T. Chiu, MD, Newport Beach

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