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Legal Aspects of Health Care

Legal Aspects of Health Care

Sample Answer 

Legal Aspects of Health Care

Sexual Abuse and Assault in the Health Care Setting

The Medical Ethics principles stipulated by the American Medical Association require all members to offer expert healthcare care with compassion and respect for human rights and dignity. In the healthcare context, this includes colleagues, patients, their family members, and other subordinate staff members. Therefore, reporting any deviant, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by physicians is critical to maintaining this integrity. Besides harassment and assault, sexual misbehavior is one of the commonest reasons for disciplinary actions taken against physicians by medical boards. In the clinical setup, sexual abuse is an exclusive term often used to refer to “engaging in any conduct with a patient that is sexual or may be reasonably interpreted as sexual” (DuBois et al., 2018). In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of sexual abuse perpetrated by medical professionals. The trial of gymnastic physician Nassar Larry in 2018 has been one of the high-profile cases of misconduct and sexual abuse by healthcare professionals. This case report, therefore, aims to explore the case of pedophile Dr. Johnnie Barto who was sentenced to 79 years in prison in Pennsylvania for sexually harassing children (Corome, 2019). The report will also identify the present state of protection laws in Pennsylvania against sexual abuse and the penalties accorded to perpetrators, the ethical responsibility of other health professionals who might be aware of improper conduct in care facilities they work in, and the effects of disproportionate sexual abuse and assault to females in the care facilities.

Synopsis of Health-related Sexual Abuse Case – Dr. Johnnie Barto

In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of doctors or healthcare workers who have been accused of sexually harassing their patients (often multiple of them) persistently over a long period. One such high-profile case was reported in 2019 in Pennsylvania. The Associated Press first reported on March 18, 2019, a shocking incident of pediatric doctor Johnnie Barto who was accused of sexually assaulting about 31 kids over several decades. A majority of these victims were Johnnie’s patients. In December 2018, the office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania reported that a large percentage of the sexual violations committed by Dr. Barto took place in the exam rooms at local hospitals and his pediatric group practice. The age of the victims (both boys and girls) ranged between eight and twelve, although the youngest was aged just two weeks (Corome, 2019).

In December 2018, Dr. Barto took a plea for sexually harassing family members. He also pleaded guilty to abusing over 20 children (most of whom were his patients) over the course of several decades. During his sentencing hearing, several of his now-grown female victims told the court their lifelong struggles with disdain and distrust of men, anxiety, and depression. Among many other things, Dr. Barto was incarcerated for nearly 79 years for child endangerment and indecent assault.

Current State of Pennsylvania Protections for Victims and Penalties for Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse

Presently, the Pennsylvania Victims’ Rights Laws stipulate stringent rules against sexual harassment (National Crime Victim Law Institute, n.d.). The Constitution offers victims of sexual abuse three important rights. The first one is the right to be informed about the elementary services (sexual abuse-related), particular court proceedings, and the details of the case’s final ruling. Secondly, victims have a right to obtain information about restitution, compensation aid, arrest of the perpetrator, and accompaniment to all court proceedings by family members. The victim also has a right to offer input into sentencing and post-sentencing decisions.

The Sexual Laws of Pennsylvania also spell strict penalties for offenders accused of perpetrating sexual misconduct. The law highlights different forms of sexual offending and the corresponding penalties. For example, rape (which is defined as “forcible compulsion” of sexual intercourse) is classified as a 1st-degree felony and can attract a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. Raping a child below 13 years can result in a maximum prison sentence of 40 years, while the rape of a kid that causes serious bodily injury can attract maximum life imprisonment and a fine of $25,000. On the other hand, sexual assault (which refers to engaging in sexual intercourse without the consent of the plaintiff) can attract a fine of $25,000 and a sentence of 10 years in jail (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, n.d.).

Ethical Responsibilities of Other Professionals Who may be Aware of Improper Conduct by a Medical Provider

Medical Ethics is a critical subject that usually deals with the making of the correct conduct decisions at all times. It addresses the subject of right and wrong in a particular culture and in a given timeframe. Medical ethics highlights the behavior and obligations of physicians and healthcare providers (including care facilities and providers) to patients, their families, their colleagues, and the community. One such obligation is self-regulation, which is anchored on the commitment to promote patient welfare. Healthcare workers are responsible for reporting unethical or incompetent behaviors from their colleagues to protect patients. They can report to relevant clinical authorities, state licensing boards, as well as a higher authority if the conduct persists (American Medical Association, n.d.).

Impact of Disproportionate Sexual Abuse and Assault on Females in the Health Care Setting

Evidence from several past reports has shown that women are vulnerable to disproportionate assault and sexual harassment in different work environments, including healthcare settings. The impact of gender-instigated sexual abuse in hospitals and other care settings, especially against patients, has been associated with increased mental conditions, such as trauma, depression, post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal ideation, and many others. There has also been a rise in the cost of care as women might end up overstaying and overspending on therapies to address the resulting injuries (Broban et al., 2020). For instance, sometimes rape victims contract sexually-transmitted diseases like HIV and syphilis, meaning that they have to endure the short-term and long-term financial outlays associated with treating and managing these conditions.


American Medical Association. (n.d.). Reporting incompetent or unethical behaviors by colleagues. Retrieved from

Broban, A., et al. (2020) Assault and care characteristics of victims of sexual violence in eleven Médecins Sans Frontières programs in Africa. What about men and boys? PLoS ONE, 15(8): e0237060.

Corome, M. (2019, August 1). The outrage of the month: Physical sexual abuse of patients. Publix Citizen,

DuBois, J. M., et al. (2019). Sexual violation of patients by physicians: A mixed-methods, exploratory analysis of 101 cases. Sexual Abuse, 31(5), 503-523. doi: 10.1177/1079063217712217.

National Crime Victim Law Institute. (n.d.). Pennsylvania Victims’ Rights Laws. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. (n.d.). Sexual Assault Laws in PA. Retrieved from


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Legal Aspects of Health Care

Case Assignment
The 2018 trial of gymnastics doctor Dr. Larry Nassar has shone a light on sexual abuse and misconduct by medical professionals. After reviewing the background literature, discuss the following in a 3- to 5-page paper.

Legal Aspects of Health Care

Legal Aspects of Health Care

  1. Choose a case focused on healthcare-related assault and/or sexual abuse from the background readings or from your own research and provide a brief synopsis of the case and the outcome.
  2. After reviewing State Report Cards, provide an analysis of the current state of protections for victims as well as penalties for perpetrators for the state in which your case was located. Address the five main categories of review and be sure to provide specific examples to support your analysis.
    • State report cards retrieved from Datar, S. (2016). State report cards: How well does your state protect patients? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved from:
  3. What are the ethical responsibilities of other professionals (colleagues, medical boards, employers, etc.) who may be aware of improper conduct by a medical provider? Be sure to discuss ethical principles covered earlier in the course.
  4. While sexual abuse and assault can impact anyone, it disproportionately occurs to individuals who gender-identify as female. What impact can this have on equity and access to health care for these individuals when it occurs in a health care setting?

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