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Johns Hopkins to pay US$190 mil. after doc taped pelvic examinations

BALTIMORE, Maryland--Johns Hopkins Health System will pay US$190 million to more than 8,000 women whose bodies may have been videotaped or photographed by a gynecologist using a pen-like camera during pelvic exams.

Dr. Nikita Levy was fired in February 2013, days after a co-worker alerted hospital authorities about her suspicions and he was forced to turn over the camera. He committed suicide 10 days later. Investigators discovered roughly 1,200 videos and 140 images stored on a series of servers in his home.

“All of these women were brutalized by this,” said the women's lead attorney, Jonathan Schochor. “Some of these women needed counseling, 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 settlement is one of the largest settlements on record in the U.S. involving sexual misconduct by a physician, and all but closes a case that never produced criminal charges but threatened the reputation of one of the world's leading medical institutions.

Lawyers said thousands of women were traumatized, 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.

Hopkins said insurance will 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.”

“It is our hope that this settlement and findings by law enforcement that images were not shared helps those affected achieve a measure of closure,” the hospital statement said, adding that “one individual does not define Johns Hopkins.”

Hospital authorities called Baltimore police just before Levy's firing. Police and federal investigators said they found no evidence he shared the material with others.

A class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 8,000 of his patients who contacted lawyers was brought against Johns Hopkins last fall, alleging the hospital should have known what he was up to.

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

Myra James, 67, had been going to him for annual exams for 20 years. Since his misconduct became public, she hasn't been to a gynecologist once.

“I can't bring myself to go back,” James said. “You're lying there, exposed. It's violating and it's horrible, and my trust is gone. Period.”

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