California university doctor accused of sexual abuse

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A gynecologist at a California university has denied claims that he sexually abused his patients over decades, with the school coming under fire for allowing him to continue treating patients despite the allegations.

The case was brought to light by the Los Angeles Times, which published accounts from several current and former employees at the University of Southern California (USC) regarding George Tyndall's behavior toward his mostly adolescent patients.

The newspaper reported that the misconduct dated back to the 1990s, with Tyndall accused of taking photographs of patients' genitals, supposedly for medical reasons, touching patients inappropriately during pelvic exams and making sexual and racially discriminatory comments about patients and their bodies.

Despite concerns raised by colleagues, nurses and patients, USC allowed Tyndall to continue working until a formal complaint to the equality and diversity committee in 2016 sparked an internal investigation, the Times reported.

USC confirmed to AFP on Wednesday (May 16) that Tyndall, who was first accused of making racially discriminatory comments in 2013, was suspended and then fired for violating the university's harassment policy following the 2016 investigation.

But the university also reached a financial agreement with Tyndall after he threatened legal action.

USC said that although its 2016 investigation "did not find evidence of criminal conduct," Tyndall's actions represented "a clear violation of our principles of community and a shameful betrayal of our values." It added that it reported Tyndall to the California Medical Board in March.

The university's president, C.L. Max Nikias, said in a letter to students that the university had informed police and the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. So far, no students have reported Tyndall to the authorities.

Nikias also branded Tyndall's behavior a "profound breach of trust."

"I sincerely apologize to any student who may have visited the student health center and did not receive the respectful care each individual deserves," he said in the letter.

According to the Times, Tyndall maintains that his conduct during gynecological exams was medically justifiable and has threatened to sue the university.

The case echoes that of former Michigan State University (MSU) doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of hundreds of incidents of sexual abuse against young female athletes.

MSU announced Wednesday that it had agreed to a US$500 million (S$670 million) settlement with the victims.

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