9:45 AM EST, February 22, 2013
I am alarmed about the accusations that Johns Hopkins gynecologist Dr. Nikita Levy surreptitiously photographed and videotaped his patients ("Hopkins patients stream forward over recordings," Feb. 20).
He was working at a Hopkins' East Baltimore satellite clinic and apparently was relieved of his post when the allegations came to light. Yet many of his patients have given him great testimonials on the Baltimore Sun website.
This is not really surprising. Sex offenders come in all shapes and sizes, and they often hide right among us, blending in. They are clever psychopaths who plan and execute their offenses insidiously.
Such offenders are patient and cultivate their clientele assiduously with studied charm. And they are very convincing in the role of dedicated professionals whose aims are innocuous and scholarly.
They are also authoritative, assertive and controlling. Their professions are merely covers — a means of concealing their dark sides. The public is repeatedly fooled by these predators because of social and cultural conditioning and naivete.
The culprits rely on these social forces to give them cover, too. They prey on their unsuspecting victims from their invincible professional perches. Some of our most notorious sex offenders come from the ranks of priests, athletic coaches, teachers, nurses and doctors.
Yet many people, including the victims, are reluctant to believe that they have been duped. It is disheartening to know one has been victimized or that one's judgment was impaired or one's trust misplaced.
If the allegations against Dr. Levy are true, it raises the question how he was able to videotape his victims unnoticed and unsuspected.
During gynecological exams, women are vulnerable, anxious and nervous. The position in which they are placed for the exam is humiliating. The exams aren't supposed to be done unless a female nurse is also present. It is puzzling how Dr. Levy, could have managed to do what he is alleged to have done if a nurse was in the room.
But nurses may leave a room to secure biopsies and PAP smear specimens, so a devious doctor might be able to photograph a patient during their absence. Patients must be vigilant during such moments. They are actually better off sitting up and getting dressed as soon as a nurse leaves the room.
Predators can keep up a steady stream of chatter in the name of calming their patients during an exam. But for an exam to be above board, a gynecologist should explain what is happening step by step, without indulging in witticisms and unrelated conversation.
Patients should be calm and focused. They should take stock of the examining room and what is being done to them. And if they notice anything suspicious they should call the doctor and his staff on it.
Sometimes even a doctor's staff may know what is going on. At other times they may collude with him, or they may be afraid to expose his criminal activities for fear of being fired. It's hard to collect the evidence to support one's suspicions, and without evidence victims feel powerless.
It is not clear who outed Dr. Levy or why and when his videotaping started; but apparently someone caught on to him. While better late than never is a good motto, the doctor may have victimized many women before he was stopped.
Johns Hopkins probably feels like the "emperor with no clothes" in the face of this looming scandal. Hopkins spans several counties to make the best of the current health care climate, but that sprawl itself creates an inefficient system prone to breakdowns and ethical lapses.
Every big hospital system should keep a close watch on its satellite clinics. Auditors should be sent out on surprise visits to those centers, and inspectors should be sent for assessments. Every employee should undergo periodic background checks.
Predators do what they do because they think they can get away with it. We give them that security, with our big, bloated bureaucracies where the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. But when catch them we should prosecute them swiftly, even if their victims are not clamoring for justice.
Usha Nellore, Bel Air
Copyright © 2013, The Baltimore Sun