Women whose sex organs rogue doctor filmed to share US$190m payout

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 10:01pm


A "rogue" US gynaecologist's secret use of tiny cameras to record hundreds of videos and photos of his patients' sex organs has led to prestigious Johns Hopkins hospitals agreeing to pay US$190 million to some 8,000 women and girls, lawyers said.

Dr Nikita Levy was fired after 25 years with the Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore in February last year after a woman colleague alerted authorities about a pen-like camera he wore around his neck. He committed suicide days later, as a federal investigation led to roughly 1,200 videos and 140 images stored on computers in his home.

"All of these women were brutalised by this," said their lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor, on Monday. "Some of these women needed counselling. They were sleepless. They were dysfunctional in the workplace. They were dysfunctional at home. They were dysfunctional with their mates. This breach of trust, this betrayal - this is how they felt."

The preliminary settlement approved by a judge on Monday is one of the largest on record in the US involving sexual misconduct by a physician.

It all but closes a case that never produced criminal charges but seriously threatened the reputation of one of the world's leading medical centres.

Lawyers said thousands of women were traumatised, even though their faces were not visible in the images and it could not be established with certainty which patients were recorded or how many.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Howard Janet said 62 girls were among the victims, and Levy violated hospital protocol by sending chaperones out of the exam room. Hopkins said insurance would cover the settlement, which "properly balances the concerns of thousands of plaintiffs with obligations the Health System has to provide ongoing and superior care to the community".

About 8,000 of Levy's patients contacted lawyers in the class-action lawsuit, which alleged that the hospital should have known what he was up to. "This has shaken the Hopkins system," said Hopkins' attorney, Donald DeVries, who said Levy "went rogue. … There was no inkling of it. Hopkins was unaware."

Once alerted to the problem, hospital authorities quickly notified Baltimore police and escorted Levy off campus. Police and federal investigators said they found no evidence he shared the material with others.

Some women told of being inappropriately touched and verbally abused by Levy, according to Schochor. Some said that they had been summoned regularly to Levy's office for unnecessary pelvic exams.

The settlement involves eight law firms and is subject to final approval by Judge Sylvester Cox after a "fairness hearing" where the women can speak.

Levy saw roughly 12,600 patients during his 25 years at Hopkins, which sent out letters to his patient list last year, apologising to the women and urging them to seek care with other specialists.