UCLA Gynecologist Accused of Sexual Assault of Student Patient – MedPage Today

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by Kara Grant, Enterprise & Investigative Writer, MedPage Today
A former student of the University of California Los Angeles has filed a lawsuit against her alma mater and the UC Board of Regents, accusing Edward Wiesmeier, MD, a gynecologist who worked at the school’s student health center, of committing acts of sexual assault and battery during their appointments.
According to court documents obtained by MedPage Today, the plaintiff — under the pseudonym Jane Doe — went to see Wiesmeier for a routine Pap smear when she was a student in the early 2000s. Instead, the complaint states, “what should have been an unremarkable pelvic examination” turned into a medically unnecessary examination of the patient’s clitoris and an inappropriate questioning of Doe’s sexual practices.
Wiesmeier, who at the time served as assistant vice-chancellor for Student Health, told Doe to return for a second appointment to address the “problem,” during which she was allegedly subjected “to an excruciatingly painful and sexually abusive ‘procedure'” that was overseen by a female nurse.
Complaints against Wiesmeier, who retired in 2007 after providing gynecological services at UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center for over 25 years, and four other UCLA gynecologists were investigated and made public in May 2020 by a UCLA Special Committee Report. The report prompted the arrest of former UCLA gynecologist James Heaps, a case that resulted in a $73 million payout to approximately 6,000 of his victims for similarly abusive behavior during clinical settings.
Doe’s attorney Jennifer McGrath, who also worked on the case against Heaps, told MedPage Today that, on top of the already authoritative power that doctors hold over patients, those seeking gynecological care at UCLA’s health center are part of an especially vulnerable group: students that, like Doe, may have had very little or no prior experience with gynecological exams.
“UCLA has for decades overseen a medical system that is rife with the abuse of patients,” McGrath wrote. “UCLA Health ignored evidence of wrongdoing until it damaged UCLA’s reputation, at which point they commissioned whitewashed reports about this lengthy history of misconduct.”
The committee’s report found years of evidence that pointed to the university’s “lack of clear and consistent processes for receiving, reviewing, and responding to patient complaints of sexual misconduct,” “cultural deference to physicians and fear of retaliation by supervisors, which chilled employees from reporting physician misconduct,” and “inadequate education about sensitive exams, which left patients without the information and staff chaperones without the training to enforce clinical boundaries.”
In short, the chair of the committee wrote, “some of the conduct… examined may have been prevented.”
The complaint against Wiesmeier borrows language from this review to further demonstrate the extent of UCLA’s and the UC Regents’ alleged negligence when it comes to addressing abuse by university physicians. UCLA’s student health center, the complaint says, failed to ensure that properly trained chaperones were present during sensitive medical examinations to oversee physician behavior.
The significance of trained chaperones is a notable issue in this particular case, as Doe accused a female nurse of being present for and remaining silent about an abusive “procedure” Wiesmeier performed on her clitoris during her second appointment.
“Her presence only reinforced [Doe’s] understandable belief that she was receiving legitimate gynecological care,” the lawsuit claims.
During this second appointment, Wiesmeier supposedly halted the ‘procedure’ after Doe’s constant cries of pain; after he left the room, Doe recalled that the female nurse told her she did not understand why “he is doing this to you girls,” referring to Wiesmeier’s actions.
The report also notes that Wiesmeier was the principal investigator of a “study” that evaluated clitoral adhesions in college-aged women. In the complaint against UCLA and the UC Regents, Doe’s attorneys wrote that “referencing this study appears to have involved a misplaced attempt to give some credence or legitimacy to what Dr. Wiesmeier was doing.” Doe claims that this research was never mentioned to her and she never gave her consent to be a subject.
UCLA’s executive communications officer Steve Ritea said in an emailed statement that the accusations against Wiesmeier came to light years after his 2007 retirement, and in the years since then, the university has put into place several policy changes, including enhanced chaperoning.
“Sexual misconduct in any form is an inexcusable breach of the physician-patient relationship and we are committed to holding violators accountable…” Ritea wrote. “We are deeply sorry that any of our patients were mistreated in the course of care, and we are grateful for those who have come forward to share information in the interest of ensuring safety. UCLA is committed to continually evaluating and strengthening policies and procedures to protect the dignity of every patient.”
Kara Grant joined the Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team at MedPage Today in February 2021. She covers psychiatry, mental health, and medical education. Follow
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