Yesterday, I made my first post on Off the Charts and welcomed you to this new blog by AJN editors and contributing editors. Shortly after I posted that message, I saw a report in the Daily News, a New York City newspaper, titled “Flushing Hospital nurse gets $15 million award in sexual harassment suit.” After reading the article, all I could say was, “It’s about time!”
Nurse Janet Bianco, a seasoned cardiac care nurse, reported physician Matthew Miller for sexual assault at Flushing Hospital in Queens in 2001. The article described Miller’s forcefully groping Bianco in a room with two sedated patients and trying to “force his tongue down her throat” on another occasion. The report noted that the hospital’s medical director, Peter Barra, saw one of the attacks and did nothing to stop it or to follow up with Miller on this or any of the other reports that had been made about Miller’s sexual advances with staff. The hospital and Miller are to split payment of the $15 million award to Bianco. Of course, the hospital is appealing the decision and, what’s worse, Miller still has his license to practice medicine, though it was suspended for two months and he was on probation for three years. According to the article, this is not the first episode of sexual impropriety for Miller: “In 1996, he was charged with having a two-year sexual relationship with a troubled, alcoholic female patient for whom he was prescribing anti-anxiety drugs.”
The Joint Commission is now requiring that all accredited facilities have a formal code of conduct for all employees and affiliated physicians. The American Medical Association (AMA) wanted a moratorium on its implementation. Maybe more lawsuits against harassing physicians for emotional, physical, or sexual abuse will move physicians and organized medicine to embrace better conduct.
–Diana J. Mason, PhD, RN, Editor-in-Chief, AJN