Following an investigation that began over a year ago, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore agreed on Monday to pay a $190 million settlement to women whose gynecologist, a doctor in the university’s medical system, secretly taped their exams.
The allegations, which were leveled in a class-action lawsuit, center around Dr. Nikita A. Levy, who had been practicing with Johns Hopkins Community Medicine since 1988. Over the course of several years, Levy had reportedly been using cameras concealed in pens and key fobs to record the pelvic exams he performed on female patients. Other accusations include “an excessive number of unnecessary pelvic exams,” “inappropriate physical contact,” verbal abuse, and conducting exams without another medical professional present in the room.
Levy’s activities came to light in early 2013 when a female colleague discovered one of the pen cameras. Police then conducted a search of the doctor’s home and found over 1,200 video clips and images contained on 10 hard drives. Levy was never formally charged with a crime but was terminated in February 2013 and committed suicide two weeks later, leaving an apology letter to his wife.
Police continued to investigate after Levy’s death, concluding that he had acted on his own and did not share the video or images with others. None of the patients who were recorded were determined to be underage. The Baltimore Sun notes that the university estimates there could be more than 12,500 potential victims over Levy’s nearly 25-year career. About 8,000 are part of the class-action suit.
"When learning of Dr. Levy's behavior, our clients were extremely distraught,” plaintiffs’ attorneys Jonathan Schochor and Howard Janet said in a statement Monday. “They felt a great breach of faith and trust. They felt betrayed. Now, with this proposed settlement, we can begin the process of healing our community."
Eight law firms are involved with the case and the settlement will receive final approval after a “fairness hearing,” during which the plaintiffs can speak. Should it receive the final approval, the settlement will be among the biggest ever awarded for sexual misconduct by a physician.