As a Los Angeles Times investigation exposed last week, more than half of Californian doctors who had their licenses revoked for sexual abuse of patients had their licenses returned by the Medical Board of California and were allowed to resume seeing patients.
The victims of these doctors are often not provided justice among the courts either, states the report, as it is argued that dated laws from 1975 continue to take away patient rights, along with creating a maximum compensation cap of $250,000 despite the potential years of torment as a result of abuse.
The cap disproportionately harms women, stated the non-profit organization Consumer Watchdog, who are more likely to suffer injuries capped by the law.
“The malpractice cap is not supposed to apply to sexual abuse or assault, however, which are considered battery in the state of California,” the organization stated in a press release. “In practice, the cap has so gutted legal accountability for physicians who cause reproductive harm that women are turned away by attorneys who know that any case involving harm in a medical setting will be defended as a medical negligence case.”
“By erecting hurdles to justice for reproductive injuries, the malpractice compensation cap in makes California women a target for harm and assault and prevents their abusers from being held accountable,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
That’s what happened to Kimberly Turbin of Stockton, who Consumer Watchdog spoke with to hear her perspective on the investigation.
Kimberly was assaulted by her OB-GYN during the delivery of her son. Her doctor walked into the room and declared he was going to perform an episiotomy. Without consent or medical need he cut her 12 times as she pleaded with him to allow her to give birth naturally.
Kimberly stated she was physically and emotionally traumatized, left in constant pain and with PTSD. However, she claims she was turned away by 80 lawyers due to the medical negligence cap. After Kimberly put her birth video on the internet and sought the aid of womens’ advocacy organizations, she was able to find a lawyer and successfully sue for medical battery.
“I had just begun pushing and I pleaded with my doctor to not cut me, but he cut me anyway,” stated Kimberly Turbin. “Before cutting me, he told me if I didn’t like it that I could just go home and do it. He violated me and I had no rights.”
Kimberly says that ”the cap is holding back the help. It is really limiting people who are injured, people who get harmed.”
The Patients for Fairness Coalition, a group of families harmed by medical negligence, placed the “Fairness for Injured Patients Act” on the November 2022 ballot in California. The measure would update the cap for nearly 50 years of inflation, and allow judges or juries to decide compensation in cases involving catastrophic injury or death.