John Hopkins Health System is up to its eyeballs in trouble right now. The Baltimore hospital has agreed to pay $190 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought to them by the 8,500-plus women who allege their pelvic exams were secretly recorded by one of their gynecologists, Nikita Levy.
Lawyers for the victims claim that Levy had 1,200 clips of his female patients in various states of undress in his possession, dating as far back as 2005. It is possible that, using his hidden cameras (including a camera concealed in his pen), Levy may have filmed as many as 12,600 of his patients without their knowledge or consent. It’s also being alleged that 62 of the filmed females were underage. (A Johns Hopkins spokesperson declined to comment on that claim, according to the Wall Street Journal.) Complicating the matter is the fact that last year Levy took his own life while investigations into these videos were underway. In fact, he killed himself only a few weeks after being fired from the health system, where he had worked since 1988.
“When breaches of trust like these occur, no amount of compensation can erase the memories or ease the grief of victims,” an attorney for the victims, Howard Janet, explained. “Reaching a settlement at this stage allows the healing process to begin that much sooner.”
That $190 million dollars—which is still pending a final approval from the judge—would be a hefty chunk of change, even divided amongst almost 10,000 women. If the settlement was split evenly between 8,500 women, each wronged female patient would be entitled to about $22,352.94. Indeed, this settlement is one of the largest in U.S. history involving claims of sexual misconduct by a physician.
The tricky thing about lawsuits where rights to privacy and safety are violated is that the legal system attempts to put a dollar amount on suffering. Our legal system monetizes pain because you can translate dollars into numbers, and therefore you can regulate reparations. Money rarely, if ever seems like enough to make up for damage done, no matter how many zeroes and commas you put into that figure. Of course, I think it would be difficult to rip up a check in the amount of $22,352.94. That money coming into the lives of these women could do a lot of good. Money is a big help, but when we assign a dollar amount to pain, we want to make sure that we’re not implying that once a settlement has been paid off, that pain has been paid off as well. These women were violated in a vulnerable state and there is no real way to settle that score. Patients have a right to privacy and money doesn’t make up for that right being violated.