Anesthesiologist Fred Field, MD, sexually assaulted at least 12 women at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. His victims were drugged, unconscious or semi-conscious during the assaults.
It is likely Field sexually assaulted many other women—who may not know, or understand, what happened to them. Nationally, it is estimated that more than 60% of women who are sexually assaulted do not come forward out of shame or fear.
This is one victim’s story. To protect her privacy, she is identified here as “L”.
“L” was a surgical patient at Mid-Columbia Medical Center (MCMC), a hospital in The Dalles, Oregon. After her surgery, she had a severe spinal headache. She went back to the hospital for a procedure called a blood patch to alleviate her pain.
The anesthesiologist that participated in her surgery would also take part in the blood patch procedure. That anesthesiologist was Fred Field.
L was sedated, incapacitated and vulnerable. While she was under the influence of anesthesia, Field sexually abused her.
During the procedure, L started to come out of anesthesia while Field was sexually abusing her. Field realized she was becoming conscious, and quickly put her back under.
L remembered Field’s assault, but the affects of the anesthesia made her uncertain: she did not know if it was a terrible dream.
She told a nurse what she remembered. But L was hesitant to accuse the doctor; she did not want to falsely accuse someone of a serious crime.
L wasn’t only a patient: she was also a nurse at MCMC. She was afraid of losing her job.
MCMC wasn’t just a hospital to her, but also a workplace and home-away-from-home. She trusted her colleagues and the doctors that worked at the hospital. And because of that trust, L told herself that what she remembered must not have happened.
L didn’t know that she wasn’t alone. Other patients had accused Field of assault, too.
Safe haven for a sex abuser
By the time of L’s assault, Field had been assaulting women under anesthesia at MCMC—and sexually harassing hospital staff—for at least three years.
There had been multiple patient and staff complaints of sexual abuse and harassment by Field.
You would think that the hospital would take such allegations very seriously. The primary concern of any hospital is patient safety.
You would think the hospital administration would do everything possible to protect their patients, their staff, and their reputation.
The hospital did nothing.
Instead of listening to women who reported sexual abuse, hospital administrators and staff told the patients they had been “hallucinating” because of the drugs.
Instead of contacting police to investigate serious felony sexual assaults, the hospital had only internal “investigations.” These investigations, done by Field’s colleagues and friends, did not seek truth, but exoneration.
Instead of protecting patients, the hospital protected a serial sex abuser.
Denying and Defending
Field’s abuses were not a secret in his four years at Mid-Columbia Medical Center.
D’Amore Law Group represented several women that MCMC allowed Field to sexually assault. We counted at least 20 people in hospital staff and administration who admitted to knowing or at least suspecting his behavior.
L was not the first victim to file a lawsuit. Several women have won verdicts against Field and MCMC. Several others have settled out of court.
MCMC refused to even attempt to settle L’s case, and spare her the pain and humiliation of a public trial.
The Dalles is a small, close-knit city of around 15,000 people in Wasco County, Oregon. Several of the victims live there.
In a public courtroom, in her hometown, L faced very personal attacks by MCMC and their lawyers. They asked degrading questions and tried to humiliate L and the other victims who came to trial to testify on her behalf.
In 2012, Field pleaded guilty to 11 counts of first-degree sexual abuse and 1 count of first-degree rape. He is serving a 23-year jail sentence.
Yet, they refused to admit that any sexual assault, of any woman, had actually occurred.
MCMC’s lawyers proceeded to defend the hospital administration’s inexcusable “investigations” and incredibly incompetent handling of victim complaints.
MCMC acknowledged that Field had pleaded guilty, and was convicted.
They defended the very actions that had exposed all of these women to a dangerous sexual predator.
It was a shameful display by the hospital and their attorneys.
Jury sends a message to the hospital
Last week, at the end of L’s month-long trial against MCMC, the Wasco County, Oregon, jury came to a decision.
The jury concluded that the hospital was negligent. The hospital’s behavior was so offensive, and the hospital administration had failed so badly, that jurors felt an additional punishment was warranted.
The jury found by “clear and convincing evidence” that the hospital acted with a reckless, outrageous, and conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.
The jurors awarded $800,000 in compensatory damages, and another $150,000 in punitive damages – basically, a fine meant to punish the hospital.
With this verdict, the jury sent a message to the hospital administration: you are responsible for patient safety, and the hospital administration has failed miserably in protecting patients.
Sex abusers often seek out victims where they are most vulnerable—in places like hospitals. It is the hospital’s job to safeguard against this abuse.
Yet, the hospital boldly asserted at trial that it has not changed its procedures. No one has been fired. No one has been punished.
This verdict was intended to send a message to MCMC.
We hope that it will cause the hospital’s Board of Directors to reevaluate the administration and their commitment to public safety.
Let’s hope MCMC gets the message.
Questions or inquiries: please contact the firm at 503-222-6333.