UCLA’s former campus gynecologist is accused of sexually assaulting many of his female patients.
A 44-year-old cancer patient filed a lawsuit against UCLA and Dr. James Heaps alleging the former campus gynecologist “repeatedly sexual assaulted her during her two years of treatment.” She was battling a life-threatening cancer, mesothelioma, when, in October 2015, she went to Heaps for surgery. During four visits from 2015-2017, she said Heaps “abused his position of trust to improperly touch her clitoris repeatedly, fondle her breasts and squeeze her nipples” pretending to be administering a legitimate medical examination. Heaps has denied any wrongdoing, but his bad behavior has already taken center-stage with claims made by multiple other patients. He recently pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of sexual battery of two of these patients at a university facility.
Heaps’ attorney, Tracy Green, said the physician was a “respected, talented and thorough gynecological oncologist.” She added, “Everything was done for a medical reason.”
However, least 22 other women have stepped forward alleging that Heaps sexually assaulted them, and two additional complaints were found over the course of investigation these. And, roughly 75 people have contacted UCLA about Heaps since the university announced that Los Angeles County prosecutors had filed charges, meaning multiple additional cases could be filed.
The mesothelioma patient’s attorney John Manly, said, “For cancer patients to have to not only worry about dying, but being sexually assaulted, is truly horrific.”
According to the full complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the woman “was treated in the emergency room three times in two weeks for severe pain in the abdomen and eventually underwent emergency surgery and was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that can line the abdomen…After the surgery, she would see Heaps four times as he told her she needed diligent monitoring.”
It was during these visits that Heap examined her alone, without a female chaperone, and sexually assaulted her, including “fondling her breasts, molesting her genitals and attempting to sexually stimulate her.” Because the patient had a life-threatening disease and felt she had no choice but to continue seeing Heaps, she was violated repeatedly during each visit and “felt powerless in reporting or objecting to his behavior,” the lawsuit says.
The two civil lawsuits Heaps and the UC regents are currently facing involve patients treated in 2017. One filing alleges that “a female medical chaperone in the room witnessed the horrific encounter between Doe and Heaps but remained silent.” This suit includes allegations of “sexual battery, emotional distress, gender discrimination, negligent supervision and failure to warn the public and properly train and educate UC staff on sexual misconduct.” The second involves a college student who was 18 and states Heaps “sexually touched her genitals, made vulgar comments about her body and asked embarrassing and medically unnecessary questions about her sex life.”
A UCLA Health spokesperson responded, “the allegations against Dr. Heaps contained in the lawsuit are very disturbing.” After receiving multiple complaints from others, the university added in a statement, “Sexual abuse in any form is unacceptable and represents an inexcusable breach of the physician-patient relationship,” a statement from the university said. “We are deeply sorry that a former UCLA physician violated our policies and standards, our trust and the trust of his patients.”