July 23, 2014 — Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday agreed to pay $190 million to more than 7,000 women to settle charges that a doctor working at a community clinic that the hospital owned secretly recorded their pelvic exams, the New York Times reports. The settlement is one of the largest of its kind in a medical malpractice case, according to the Times.
Last year, a female colleague reported Nikita Levy -- an ob-gyn at Johns Hopkins Community Medicine in Baltimore -- to hospital management after she grew suspicious of a pen-like device he wore around his neck. Security officers then approached Levy at his office, and he handed over several cameras, including one in the pen. He was fired on Feb. 8, 2013, and committed suicide 10 days later.
A federal investigation uncovered more than 1,000 videos and images of patients stored on Levy's home computer, dating back to about 2005. Law enforcement officials concluded that none of the images was shared. No criminal charges were filed.
A subsequent civil lawsuit charged Johns Hopkins with invasion of privacy, negligence and causing emotional distress. The suit said Levy had engaged in "harmful and offensive sexual" contact with his patients.
Lawyer Jonathan Schochor -- whose firm Schochor, Federico & Staton interviewed about 2,000 of Levy's patients -- said the women who had been filmed "feel an extreme breach of faith, breach of trust and betrayal." He added that some of the women "have dropped out of the medical system," declining to seek care themselves or take their children to pediatricians because of mistrust.
Schochor said, "There's been a huge, devastating result to this whole thing," adding, "Many have had changes in their ability to focus, problems with sleeplessness. Some have had changes in their relationships with spouses and significant others" (Gabriel, New York Times, 7/21). After a "fairness hearing," during which the plaintiffs can speak, Judge Sylvester Cox will decide whether to give final approval to the settlement. Each plaintiff was interviewed by a forensic psychologist and a post-traumatic stress specialist to assess her level of trauma and how much money she should receive (AP/Modern Healthcare, 7/21).