Several patients accuse doctor of sexual abuse in Latvia

Several women have accused immunity specialist Jevgēņijs Ņikiforenko of sexual harassment during their visits to the doctor. Latvian Radio podcast Dokumentārijs and Re:Baltica reported on the cases last week, and since then, more women have come out with the allegations, Latvian Radio reported December 16.

Following a number of applications, the State Police launched criminal proceedings against Ņikiforenko in 2009, but the case was closed four years later. The patients appealed it once, but the prosecutor's office left the decision in effect. However, following a study published by the podcast Dokumentārijs, Prosecutor General Juris Stukāns has decided to review the case again.

In talks with Latvian Radio, the women talked about a variety of experiences – the doctor had ordered one to take her clothes off and lie on the couch to check her veins, and stroked her legs for a long time. Anothre had a breast examination for over five minutes, whereas others had experienced something akin to a gynecological exam during which the doctor's finger placement and movements cast doubt on the true intent of his actions. In all cases, the exams lasted 5-10 minutes, the patients said.

One of the women, after the visit over ten years ago, read others' feedback on a forum and decided to write a complaint to both the Stradiņš hospital and the Health Inspectorate.

The hospital responded immediately: "The way in which the examination was conducted without respecting your objections is neither acceptable nor justified. The alleged breaches of ethics and medical records were explained to Dr. Ņikiforenko. We are grateful for your submission. [..] You have the right to refer to the Ethics Commission of the Latvian Medical Association or other competent authorities that can assess this situation and take appropriate action. The employment relationship with Dr. Ņikiforenko at the hospital was terminated on November 16, 2010. "

The Health Inspectorate refused to initiate administrative infringement proceedings because, following an expert examination of the medical records, it was not established that the doctor had applied such methods. After the publication of the podcast last week, the Health Inspectorate still distanced itself from the case saying that it only considers matters relating to the quality of medical treatment. “Violence is a police matter,” said the inspection's spokeswoman Elīna Ermansone.

The Latvian Medical Association (LĀB) discussed the situation on Tuesday December 14. The association's vice president, Māris Pļaviņš, stressed that the presumption of innocence should be taken into account and that, until the doctor has been convicted, the association cannot revoke his medical license.

The Prosecutor General Juris Stukāns has decided to re-examine the case in question. Representative of the Prosecutor's Office Aiga Eiduka said: "The Prosecutor General has requested all materials of the case in question to decide on the reviewing and decide on further action. Since not all materials have been collected so far, it is too early to speak of further steps."

Meanwhile, Ņikiforenko is still working with patients in the Biocon laboratory. Its chief executive, Anita Bēriņa, declined to comment on whether the company had seen any risks when recruiting a doctor with a questionable reputation, while Ņikiforenko himself retorted that he had no time for “those rumors” and dropped the phone.

 

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