A new lawsuit against Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center alleges a woman was sexually assaulted by a staff member while she was restrained and sedated during an outpatient surgical procedure.
Jill McLaughlin’s complaint names her alleged attacker only as “John Doe.”
According to her lawsuit, that’s because the hospital has failed to identify the man she has accused of grabbing her hand and rubbing it on his genitals while the two were alone in a hospital room. McLaughlin and her attorney say officials at Christus St. Vincent also won’t disclose whether they have prevented the man from working with other patients.
McLaughlin, 50, editor of the Los Alamos Monitor, says the hospital was “utterly callous” in handling her case — it did not even offer an apology, according to the suit.
The complaint accuses the unnamed medical worker of sexual assault, battery and nonconsensual physical and sexual contact.
It accuses the hospital of failing to protect McLaughlin from sexual assault while she was in a medically vulnerable state and alleges the hospital is in violation of the state Human Rights Act because the law declares sexual harassment and assault of a business patron gender-based discrimination.
Kate Ferlic, a Santa Fe attorney representing McLaughlin in the case, said it was filed Wednesday in state District Court in Santa Fe. Though, the filing didn’t appear that day in online court records.
Arturo Delgado, a spokesman for Christus St. Vincent, said the hospital had not been served with the lawsuit by Wednesday afternoon. He said he could not discuss or share patient information, or any information regarding litigation.
In an email, Delgado said the hospital takes “patient care and patient experience very seriously and we always work to ensure the safety of all patients.”
Ferlic said the hospital conducted an investigation into McLaughlin’s allegation but provided no information about its findings and hasn’t communicated with her about the incident since September. It also has not identified the man or indicated whether he was disciplined.
According to the lawsuit, McLaughlin checked into the hospital in September for a procedure on her neck. She was placed face down on a surgical table, and her shoulders and upper back were restrained with straps attached to the table. A local numbing agent “left her unable to independently control or move her arms,” the suit says.
Ferlic said a female physician administered the anesthetic through a few injections to McLaughlin’s neck and then performed the 45-minute procedure.
A man in the room — whom McLaughlin couldn’t see because of her restraints, according to Ferlic — held her right hand during the procedure; afterward, he was left alone with her.
The complaint says he moved to the other side of the table and used McLaughlin’s left hand to touch his genitals.
“Eventually, John Doe dropped Ms. McLaughlin’s hand,” the lawsuit says. “The essential relationship between patient and medical provider — to do no harm — was betrayed.”
McLaughlin reported her experience to hospital personnel and to the Santa Fe Police Department.
The department did not provide the police report Wednesday, despite multiple requests for the document.
The lawsuit requests a six-person jury trial and seeks an award for punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
In an emailed statement, McLaughlin said, “I am deeply disappointed by St. Vincent’s inaction on this very serious allegation against one of its employees. By ignoring this behavior, companies put every woman who enters their facilities at risk.
“The message to women is to stay silent and that their concerns don’t matter,” she added.