Yet another big university is learning a costly lesson about the perils of ignoring rogue doctors and their harming of vulnerable young people: The University of Southern California has offered to pay $215 million to settle federal lawsuits by hundreds of coeds who say they were sexually harassed and abused by the head gynecologist at the Los Angeles school’s health service.
Women who ever saw Dr. George Tyndall at a campus clinic may receive $2,500 each, while those with claims they were sexually abused by him could be paid up to $250,000 each.
USC said its proposed, tentative settlement has not been reviewed and approved by a federal judge who has been assigned a class-action suit involving hundreds of women.
The university has acknowledged that it received complaints about the doctor for years, though officials failed to act on them, allowing him to treat 14,000 to 17,000 young women, many of them in recent times international students, especially from China. They may have been even more unfamiliar with Western medicine, the English language, and, thus, greatly vulnerable to exploitation.
The Los Angeles Times reported that USC scrutinized Tyndall’s conduct in 2016 after an angry and frustrated nurse complained to officials about his practices. The school determined he had exceeded medical norms while conducting pelvic exams, conduct that constituted sexual harassment, at least.
But the newspaper said the university reached a secret deal with Tyndall, the lone gynecologist in USC’s health service for three decades. He was paid a settlement and allowed to resign.
As the furor built over the doctor and how the university handled him, hundreds of women have stepped forward to denounce him and his practices. The Los Angeles Times says at least 463 women have sued USC.
The school’s announced settlement covers only participants in a federal suit. Hundreds of women have sued USC, its leadership, and Tyndall in state courts. The $215 million settlement — which the school said will be funded from its reserves and by insurers — does not address state claims.
Plaintiffs and their attorneys have expressed doubt and anger about the university’s proposed settlement, saying it represents a business-as-usual response by a school known for its privileged and well-connected students and alums: Throw money at a problem and hope it goes away.
USC’s president was ousted as students, faculty, and trustees learned how his administration handled not only Tyndall’s case but also problems with the deans of the university’s medical school. The Los Angeles Times, again, dug into the eye expert-medical school dean who partied with young and dubious friends, and who was writing drug prescriptions for members of his wrong crowd. The revelations led to that dean’s dismissal. His successor also quit after just a few months when the newspaper disclosed that he, too, had problems: He had been formally disciplined by the university for sexual harassment.
The university, confronted with demonstrated problems with its gynecologist and medical school dean, dragged its feet about reporting them to state licensing officials, police, and prosecutors. The District Attorney in Los Angeles has said it is scrutinizing more than 50 criminal complaints against Tyndall.
In my practice, I not only see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical treatment but also their struggles to find justice and recompense for injuries done to them by bad doctors, hospitals, nurses, nursing homes, and other medical caregivers and care-giving facilities. Medical colleagues and administrators, as well as university leaders who turn a blind eye to malpractice and wrongdoing add insult to victims’ grave injury.
It is unacceptable that medical-sexual scandals have engulfed hundreds of young people, not just at USC but also at Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, and USA Gymnastics. Young women and men have had their lives shattered, and institutions — which raise money voraciously, supposedly to benefit scholarship and athletics — have spent hundreds of millions on abuse settlements. Joining USC’s $215 million partial settlement, Penn State found the cost of its sexual abuse scandal hitting almost a quarter of billion dollars, while the price of trying to untangle MSU’s mess will be half a billion dollars.
The dismal drumbeat of these cases also hasn’t abated: The New York Times reported that Rockefeller University Hospital has known for years but only now is working to determine how many young men may have been sexually abused by Reginald Archibald, a now-deceased endocrinologist. He specialized in treating children and teens who seemed small for their age.
The newspaper said Archibald may have acted inappropriately and sexually abused young boys and male teens in his care. Rockefeller, a respected research institution, has reached out to as many as 1,000 onetime patients as part of a current investigation of allegations dating back for years against the doctor.
His abuse exceeded medical norms, the newspaper reported, quoting experts. Because he treated patients for developmental concerns, seeing them periodically and for long time spans, he, for example, photographed them naked and conducted invasive measurements and exams. He also published in respected medical journals some of his photos of naked youths, though with their faces obscured. That was said to be acceptable dissemination at the time of research information.