"You used your standing within the community as a cloak behind which you could carry out sexual assaults."
Many regard doctors as people of authority – an individual whose responsibility is to care for their patients. In particular, general practitioners (GPs) tend to the ailments of the local community they serve in their medical centre.
However, we are witnessing an increasing number of Indian doctors abusing their position.
One of the biggest stories to hit in recent times is that of 60-year-old Jaswant Rathore. On 18th January 2018, he received a jail sentence for sexually assaulting four female patients.
The separate incidents were spread out between 2008 and 2015, taking place in his medical practice.
The Indian-born doctor held this practice for 30 years in Dudley, and the judge commented how he was a highly-respected member. Judge Michael Challinor said:
“Many witnesses in the trial spoke highly of your professionalism, diligence, expertise and amiability.
“These qualities made you, for many of your patients, the ‘go-to’ doctor in the area. You used your standing within the community as a cloak behind which you could carry out sexual assaults on your patients for your personal gratification.”
As mentioned, this case isn’t standalone. Over the years, other Indian-born GPs have also been reprimanded for sexually harassing their patients.
Of course, these cases of Indian doctors and their crimes reflect only a small percentage of the Asian medical community – the majority of whom respect and adhere to their duties and to the profession.
However, could it be that the sexual assault of a patient by Indian doctors in the UK can relate back to culture?
An Abuse of Power
In July 2016, an Indian doctor named Mahesh Patwardhan was sentenced to 8 years in jail, for charges of sexual assault and fraud. He practised as a gynaecologist, treating patients at a private clinic in Charlton.
He abused two female patients in separate incidents between 2008 and 2012. During his trial, the jury heard how his actions included inappropriately touching the women and rubbing himself against them. One victim recalled:
“He came behind us and that’s when he put his hands on us. He wasn’t talking, he was just groping my breasts. It was horrible, I was in total shock. I didn’t know what to do, I felt sick and disgusted.”
After reading one impactful statement from a victim, Judge Alice Robinson found it “harrowing” and said: “You knew she was vulnerable because of sexual abuse she had suffered and she’s withdrawn from the world.”
In addition, another Indian-born doctor, identified as Manav Arora, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a male patient. In 2015, he received a jail sentence of 2 years for abusing the patient at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.
While his victim was seeking treatment for back problems, the 37-year-old had inappropriately touched the patient’s penis. He then proceeded to perform a “sexual act” on him.
Cases such as these go far back as the 1980s. Harbinder Singh Rana was jailed for four years in 1986 after he assaulted 10 victims. He would trick them by posing as a doctor and visit their homes, subjecting them to internal examinations. In some cases, he would even give injections to them.
Despite pleading not guilty, he was convicted of 5 counts of indecent assault, 11 of assault and 1 of attempted assault. In 2012, he hit headlines after he was invited as a guest to the Royal Barge during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Prince Charles was reportedly “furious” after learning of the invite and banned Rana from all future events.
These particular cases lead to many questions. Why would these GP’s, who have studied and worked for so many years, jeopardise their careers and lives by committing these sexual crimes?
Is it due to their authority and profession? Do they think they are ‘above the law’ and believe they can get away with it? Or are there other factors behind this?
A Cultural Issue?
With many of these men being of South Asian origin, could it really be an issue that reflects back to their own personal lives and identities?
Perhaps their marriages are no longer functional? This could be due to numerous reasons such as work stress, sexual incompatibility, a desire towards non-Asian women or a strange justification that the women ‘wanted it’ so they assume they can ‘get away with it’.
Other explanations could point to a possible misogynistic upbringing or perhaps underlying patriarchal views towards women.
No matter the reason, these are not excuses for their deplorable and completely unacceptable behaviour. But the question arises of whether there is a cultural connection as to why these doctors felt it was ‘acceptable’ to do what they did.
They have lost so much as a result of their actions. Not only are they barred from practising medicine (in some cases, permanently), but their reputations are shattered. They have lost respect, dignity and value among their peers, in their profession and, most importantly, their friends and family.
Particularly from a British Asian perspective, they have lost their place as highly-regarded men, who belong to an incredibly respected profession.
Improper, lustful desires have thrown them into a pit of mistrust, tarnish, anger and resentment by those who saw them as staunch members of the community.
They have also scarred the patients they sexually abused or assaulted, creating a new fear towards the medical profession and future doctors. GP’s have a duty of care to all and therefore, patients should be able to trust them to treat their ailments accordingly.
But through the actions of these individuals, the trust of these patients has been abused and destroyed.
These cases highlight that more action is needed when ensuring that doctor-patient relationships are safe and respected.
In particular, the profession should review the boundaries between a male doctor and female patient. If this requires more training, then it should happen. No matter how ‘obvious’ it appears.
This, of course, doesn’t mean a revert to segregation, where only a male doctor can see a male patient and vice versa. Instead, this goes back to a doctor’s main responsibility; a duty of care to their patients.
Regardless of desires, views and cultural factors, they should treat patients of any gender accordingly. Giving them the utmost respect and use their authority in an appropriate manner.
The cases should also highlight to others that no male doctor has such ‘privileges’ over female or male patients, irrespective of the medical treatment or procedure.
In a cultural light, it’s important that such doctors realise that they are not above the law and that ‘the ways of the past’ are no longer acceptable.
With this in mind, perhaps then we could see a decrease in these type of cases. But it requires the efforts of the medical profession and a commitment to eradicating sexual abuse for it to happen.