UPDATED: Monday, July 21, 2021 at 2 p.m.
A $1 million lawsuit filed against Central Oregon’s largest hospital, St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, alleges that a patient was sexually abused by an oncologist.
According to the complaint, Dr. Theodore Braich touched the plaintiff in a sexual manner during a medical examination in April 2020 while she was suffering from a life-threatening illness.
The complaint, filed Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, says the abuse happened during an exam of the patient, called M.L. in the suit. While examining her spleen, the plaintiff alleges she felt Braich rub his pelvic bone against her hand, and that when she was dressing after the examination, he rushed toward her and touched her buttocks in a way that was “tactile and intrusive.”
The experience caused the plaintiff to suffer anxiety that prevented her from attending follow-up appointments that were made after she was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare blood cancer, according to the lawsuit. She missed these evaluations despite knowing they “might well indicate the presence of worsening of her condition,” according to the filing.
After complaining to the hospital’s network, St. Charles Health System, M.L. received a letter stating her allegations had been thoroughly investigated and Braich was interviewed. An attorney representing M.L. told The Lund Report that the hospital told her that because the findings of its investigation into her complaint were “peer reviewed,” it could not disclose them.
“In our experience,” Jason Kafoury, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff, told The Lund Report, “medical sexual abuse is a huge problem in our society that is under reported because sexual predators can cover up what they’re doing under the guise of proper medical care.”
Court searches indicate that Braich has not been sued for sexual misconduct in the past. According to Oregon Medical Board records, Braich has been practicing medicine since 1980 and has had no complaints lodged against him.
Kafoury said often when one patient who is a victim of sexual abuse comes forward with a lawsuit, others soon follow.
A spokesperson for St. Charles Health System, Kayley Mendenhall, said it was too soon for the hospital to comment on the allegations as it had not yet been served with the suit and would need time to review it.
St. Charles Health System has four hospitals in its network, all located in Central Oregon. According to its most recently available tax filing, it brought in more than $1 billion in revenue in 2019.
Another lawsuit against its Bend location, filed in March 2020, alleged the hospital fostered a “sexually hostile work environment.” Pharmacist Darcy Martin, who filed the complaint, described an “old boys club” attitude among coworkers who often made sexaully explicit jokes and harassed her on the basis of her gender.
Mendenhall said the case was dismissed.
“In September 2020, Ms. Martin and St. Charles stipulated to a full dismissal of the case with prejudice and without an award of costs or attorney fees to any party,” Mendenhall said.
You can reach Emily Green at [email protected] or on Twitter @GreenWrites.
Reporting on medicine
Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, as the author of this piece, I found it helpful. I agree this story would be better if the defendant had granted an interview with our publication. We gave them the opportunity, but they declined. The plaintiff's attorney did comment, so that was included. As an outlet reporting on the medical industry, it's standard practice to report on lawsuits that are filed against hospitals, and those reports include the details of the complaint, as it's public record. In this case, I felt the comments from the attorney put the lawsuit into broader context, as did the inclusion of the second suit. I think our readers are smart enough to see that they were not aimed at Dr. Braich specifically, as you were able to easily discern. While the OBME may also discipline doctors, the route this patient took was the legal system, as is her right. That being said, that's an excellent point. I'll inquire with OBME next time I cover a lawsuit like this.
– Emily Green