Some kind of dam has burst lately, and for whatever reason, predatory men are finally — finally! — getting their comeuppance after years, often decades of abuse of women. The Harvey Weinstein story triggered a flood of others: Mark Halperin; Leon Welseltier; John Besh; Knight Landesman; James Toback. Reporters made sure their victims were heard. And prior to this, FoxNews’ Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and Eric Bolling saw their falls from grace for similar reasons.
Hospitals and medical colleges could use such an accounting. But they won’t get it. See, what do all of the men above have in common? All are well-known to the media, to the reporters that sourced the stories and the editors that green-lit them. Know who’s not well-known to these people? Doctors. Any of them.
And not just lowbies like me. Let’s say a veteran big-shot department chair or residency program director at Columbia-Presbytarian or NYU-Langone has a long history of Weinstein-level lechery directed at female residents, interns, nurses and so forth. Let’s say five victims are willing to go on record, as with Halperin. No reporter would care. Not even in huge institutions in a media market like NYC. They wouldn’t know the chair of cardiothoracic surgery at their nearest hospital if he slugged them in the face.
The only time doctor malfeasance becomes newsworthy is if legal proceedings have already been initiated, usually of the criminal variety. Take Dr. David Newman, a well-respected and published ER doc at Mt. Sinai, who decided to subject his patients to his perversions. The cops and prosecutors did all the work, with the media doing nothing more than transcribing the legal proceedings, and he was convicted of assaulting four women — but how many more were there? These jackasses always have a long track record of abuse. How many more women would have come forward had some journo, any journo, made some calls and did some digging? Neither Weinstein nor the rest of the rogues’ gallery mentioned at the top have even been charged — all got theirs from damning news stories. Can’t the Times or NBC or anyone spare a single soul for this?
They might counter that doctors aren’t household names. Well, neither were James Toback or Leon Welseltier. But the latter were already within the orbit of the media world. Reporters have them or their agents in their contacts list, as well as many of the victims. But they don’t have such contacts in the medical world. It’s simply not a sexy beat. The only time doctors show up in articles are as experts — institutions actually curate lists of experts for journos on a deadline to call up.
Your average reader won’t ever find themselves in the hotel room of a sleazy movie producer or news editor. But they will find themselves in the examination room of a potentially sleazy doctor, or will be asking one for a job or a reference. I suspect there is an epidemic of abuse by physicians that would make for some explosive stories — if anyone would actually care.