Dr. James Heaps spent 35 years as a gynecologist at UCLA. But instead of being awarded a gold watch upon his retirement, the doctor was slapped with 50 separate lawsuits involving 203 women. It appears Dr. Heap was a bit too thorough with his examinations.
After much to do, the University of California has agreed to pay a total of $243.6 million, meaning each of the women will receive $1.2 million for their trouble. They’ve been haunted for years.
UCLA was found guilty of ignoring complaints and for intentionally sweeping the abuse under the rug for decades. In a statement, the school said, “The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to the university’s values.”
It continued with, “We express our gratitude to the brave individuals who came forward, and hope this settlement is one step toward providing healing and closure for the plaintiffs involved.” It’s hard to imagine the university being gracious over losing $243.6 million, but whatever…
A victim of Heaps’ who was abused in the late 1990s, Julie Wallach, said, “I’ve been waiting 20 years for this day.” Wallach said she had reported the incident to both the state medical board and UCLA, but “no one listened.”
She added, “There was no one else to go to. I mean, who do you fight? The emotional toll it’s taken over the years has been tremendous.”
Eight years ago as Kara Cagle was undergoing intense treatment for breast cancer, she was sexually assaulted by Heap. “I could never imagine that someone would have taken such despicable advantage of me during that time,” she said. “It was so traumatic that I left in tears. My heart breaks for all the women who were not spared.”
The 50 lawsuits just settled represent less than half of what’s still remaining. Last year Heaps’ past activity cost UCLA $73 million for a similar lawsuit involving over 100 women.
That suit claimed the women were all assaulted between 1983 and 2018. It said that Heap would often simulate intercourse when inserting an ultrasound probe and would make lewd comments as he shoved it in and out of them. Others say they were openly and repeatedly groped.
One of the attorneys in the most recent case, John C. Manly, referred to Heap as a “sophisticated predator.” He used the guise of normal medical procedures to commit sexual abuse. He also said a good majority of the complaints came from cancer patients.
“Perpetrators are not the drooling ghoul that the media portrays them to be,” he said. “Overtly, they’re nice people, they’re gregarious, they’re polite, they have good reputations, and that’s what these women faced.”
Manly said that UCLA had decided to settle the case through litigation rather than “unnecessarily inflicting further damage upon these survivors.” He said other universities that are facing similar lawsuits should do likewise for the benefit of the victims.
He alluded to the fact that there are thousands of doctors nationwide who have received criminal and administrative convictions for sexually molesting patients. The scary thing is how many of them remain in practice. Manly urged lawmakers to take better measures at protecting the public.
He also suggested, and so do we, that every single instance of sexual abuse at the hands of a demented physician should never go unreported. If you or someone you know has been abused by a doctor, neither you nor they are the only ones.