By now, most people are well aware of the horrific acts of sexual abuse carried out by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics osteopathic physician, Larry Nassar. His recent sentencing of 175 years in prison comes amidst a strong uprising of people – predominantly women – who are speaking out against their abusers. Movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up have been born out of a newfound and long overdue backlash against sexual harassment of any kind.
However, there is some concern among members of the osteopathic medical industry that some of their practices may be misconstrued as abuse, in the wake of Nassar’s widely-publicized trial. Osteopathic doctors practice a form of health care that utilizes manipulative, hands-on treatment that works to reduce pain, restore motion and help the body to perform at its best.
Osteopathic doctors are now doing a lot of soul-searching.
Because of this hands-on approach, many osteopathic doctors are receiving questions from their patients about their techniques. As Kim Kozlowski of The Detroit News reports, 20-year veteran, Dr. Saroj Misra is one of those doctors. The program director of family medicine residency at St. John Macomb Oakland Hospital admits that Nassar’s heinous crimes are causing some “soul-searching” within the industry.
“There is a lot of soul-searching, a lot of reviewing and reaffirming, not only why we do what we do but how we do what we do,” Misra is quoted as saying, “While osteopathic manipulation is not the key aspect of being an osteopath, it is a critical component of osteopathic medicine. Because it is in the spotlight, many of us feel the need to examine what we do, how we do it and ensure that we’re continuing to care for the patient in a safe and appropriate way when we use it.”
Nassar used osteopathic techniques as his cover for sexual assault.
The concern among osteopathic doctors is that their manipulative treatments may make certain patients uncomfortable in ways that are unfounded. Nassar famously told hundreds of his patients that his manipulations of areas near the pelvic floor were all performed as means to heal their injuries. Of course, this was his way of trying to cover up the fact that he was, indeed, sexually assaulting his patients.
Nassar, of course, is behind bars for life, Kozlowski reminds us. However, he has shaken the world of osteopathic medicine to its core. There is a new dedication that has arisen among members of the industry to heighten awareness about the appropriate ways in which osteopathic doctors are to perform their treatments.
Steps are being taken to heighten awareness.
“From East Lansing to San Diego to Kirkville, Missouri, osteopathic doctors and medical students are taking steps to heighten the awareness of ethics and patient relationships through task forces, discussions and special seminars at annual conferences,” informs Kozlowski, “But the epicenter of the crisis is at Michigan State, where Nassar trained, practiced and sexually abused patients in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.”
“This one man does not embody who we are as osteopathic physicians,” says Jake Sims who is a third-year student in the osteopathic medical school at Michigan State University. “It’s unfortunate to get lumped into the same category as someone who did something so terrible,”
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