A 44-year-old cancer patient has sued the Regents of the University of California, accusing a former UCLA gynecologist/oncologist of repeatedly sexually assaulting her during her two years of treatment.
The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, had mesothelioma when she went to Dr. James Heaps for surgery in October 2015, according to the Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed Tuesday.
The suit’s allegations include sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual harassment as well as negligent hiring and retention. The suit seeks unspecified damages. Heaps also is named as a defendant.
Other women have also made similar allegations against him, but he has denied any wrongdoing
During four visits ending in June 2017, Heaps abused his position of trust to improperly touch her genitals, fondle her breasts and squeeze her nipples while allegedly giving her a medical examination, the suit states.
The lawsuit further alleges that a UCLA nurse did nothing while in the examination room with Heaps and Doe during one visit while he allegedly abused the plaintiff. Instead of monitoring Heaps, the nurse walked to a computer and sat with her back turned to the doctor, the suit alleges.
The suit states that Heaps was hired in 2014, then was allowed to “quietly resign” in 2018 after an internal investigation found the doctor had violated the Regents’ own sexual misconduct policy.
“All sexual abuse is horrific but taking advantage of a cancer patient who literally places her life in her doctor’s hands is ghoulish,” plaintiff’s attorney John Manly said.
UCLA officials have admitted that they received complaints about Heaps’ misconduct before Doe met him, yet nothing was done and he was allowed to continue practicing medicine throughout the two years he allegedly abused her, according to Manly.
Officials with UCLA and the UC Regents did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Heaps, 62, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to two counts of sexual battery by fraud and one count of sexual exploitation of a patient.
He was ordered to return to court on June 26, when a date is expected to be set for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
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