More than one of the women reported that Dr. Nikita Levy made them feel uneasy, an attorney representing some of the doctor’s former patients said.
Then there are allegations from others. Sometimes he was too rough. Sometimes he examined them with no assistant present. Sometimes he asked women to come back long before they were due for their annual exams, said David Haynes, an attorney with the Cochran Firm in Baltimore.
“It’s a clear and gross violation of patient privacy rights, at the bare minimum,” Haynes said. “Exams were done for pure perversion and his own personal satisfaction.”
More than 2,000 former clients of Levy, an obstetrician and gynecologist based at Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Medical Center who is accused of recording images of his clients via hidden videotape and camera equipment when they came into his office for examinations, have come forward to report contact with the physician, officials said.
The women were all patients of Levy, who was dismissed from Johns Hopkins in early February after a co-worker alleged that he was behaving improperly. The allegation first arose Feb. 4, when the co-worker tipped off hospital officials. Four days later, Levy was fired. Ten days after that, on Feb. 18, he committed suicide at his home in Baltimore County.
The women came forward in recent weeks as attorneys around the area appealed for them to call their offices. At least one class action lawsuit has been filed. Local authorities said they expect that dozens of Levy’s clients, if not hundreds, will eventually file claims against him and the hospital.
“He was administering pelvic exams and vaginal exams frequently,” Haynes said. “He got too close to them physically and he made them feel uncomfortable.”
More than 80 women affected by the Levy scandal gathered Feb. 23 for an informational meeting on patient’s rights held by the Cochran Law Firm. Hayes said Levy’s actions violated the women’s “right to privacy.” The hospital might also be liable for not preventing the events alleged, Haynes said. The firm is actively investigating a claim that a complaint was made by a patient to another physician about Levy’s behavior many years ago, he said.
AFRO’s request for an interview with the communications office at Johns Hopkins was not granted. Instead, a hospital employee, Audrey Huang, emailed a statement that was dated Feb. 24, a Sunday. The statement said Levy was “escorted off the property” Feb. 5. He never returned.
“We understand there is still a lot of shock and confusion surrounding the dismissal, criminal investigation and subsequent death of obstetrician/gynecologist, Nikita Levy, M.D.,” the statement said. “It is a situation that is deeply disturbing for our patients and for the entire Hopkins community. We want to assure our patients that their privacy, safety and wellbeing is always our priority. We acted quickly, and we reported this information with as much detail as our partners in law enforcement would allow.”
In an email, Huang said, “patients privacy and comfort is a key concern, which is why we have a practice that a chaperone be present for all pelvic exams.” Huang was not answering the telephone at her office when a reporter attempted to ask if Levy always used a nurse assistant when performing an exam.
According to Baltimore City police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi, the department began its investigation Feb. 7 after being notified of the allegations against Levy.
Authorities searched Levy’s home and secured computer materials such as hard drives and computer servers with an extraordinary amount of evidence.
The department’s investigation continues, but Guglielmi confirmed that a pen was among a series of cameras and recording devices found.
“We owe it to these patients to determine who is involved and if there is anyone else who assisted in criminal activity. We have an obligation to go after these people,” said Guglielmi.
On Feb. 27 the Cochran Firm is set to file an action against Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore City police department demanding they produce information on the case. Of particular concern to the women, Haynes said, are the six servers and 10 hard drives authorities seized from Levy’s home. Haynes said, “Servers are used for disseminating and sharing of materials.” They fear that he may have shared images on the Internet or emailed them to other people, he said.
Haynes said the women were “shocked,” “concerned” and “upset” over the tapes.
Lowell Duckett, vice president of A&D Security Consultants, said every purchaser of hi-tech spy equipment, as in the pen camera Levy allegedly used, is pre-screened with a questionnaire and forms. More than $4.5 billion is spent in the private sector annually on spyware.
“Why does he need it? What does he need it for? What was his objective? The worst guy out there is the Peeping Tom who hasn’t developed into a rapist yet,” said Duckett. “We have a tendency in our society to classify people based on their position.”
Jamison White, an attorney at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, said his firm has received more than 100 calls from patients of Levy who are concerned about their patient rights and seeking direction for their next course of action.
The firm filed a Notice of Preparation of Evidence to Johns Hopkins and the Baltimore City and county police departments, authorizing notification of any evidence involving any of their clients. It also asks Johns Hopkins to preserve all employee files, e-mails, etc. in association with Levy.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, White said filing a case against the Levy estate and Johns Hopkins is warranted as the hospital had responsibility to supervise Levy’s and direct liability as an institution.
“We are hearing from our clients that there was sort of a culture surrounding Dr. Levy’s practice and he was known to be in the examination rooms and conducting examinations without any other female nurse in the room and that should have been a red flag that something else with Dr. Levy was going on,” said White.
According to the notice filed by the firm, one of their clients was 14 when she first became Levy’s patient in 2004.
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