HHS OCR Resolution Agreement with Michigan State University Highlights Importance of Chaperones During Medical Exams

PUBLISHED: Aug 14, 2019
Relevant to: All Healthcare Organizations

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR), has entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with Michigan State University; the MSU HealthTeam (the multi-specialty medical practice of MSU, with approximately 260 physicians, nurse practitioners, and physicians’ assistants in more than 40 clinics); and MSU Health Care, Inc., a separate non-profit corporation (collectively, the MSU Entities), resolving a civil rights investigation related to Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of gymnasts and others while employed by MSU.

HHS OCR initiated the Title IX and Section 1557 compliance review of the MSU Entities after federal and state criminal investigations of Nassar, an osteopathic physician and associate professor at MSU, found that he had sexually abused hundreds of women and girls under his care over decades. Nassar later pleaded guilty to felony criminal sexual conduct. Additionally, William Strampel, the former dean of MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, has been convicted of felony misconduct, which stems from a charge that he used his public office to sexually harass students. Strampel also was convicted of willfully neglecting to monitor Nassar after an earlier investigation. OCR’s remedy is appropriate and effective in light of their gross misconduct.

Highlight of actions that MSU Entities have agreed to include:

  • Revision of MSU’s non-discrimination notices and sexual misconduct policies to clarify Title IX’s and Section 1557’s prohibitions on sex discrimination.
  • Improvement of processes for investigating and resolving Title IX and Section 1557 complaints (including for MSU-students, non-MSU-student patients, faculty and staff), designation of a responsible official to coordinate the acceptance, investigation and resolution of Title IX and Section 1557 complaints.
  • Institute a new chaperone policy requiring authorized members of the health care team to be present at sensitive medical examinations and allowing patients to request chaperones according to sex:

There are excellent learning opportunities for all health care organizations in this agreement. Clearly, protecting the safety of all individuals interacting with an organization and preventing sexual abuse by health care practitioners is of vital importance. One action every health care entity should take is to ensure the organization has a chaperone policy in place for all medical exams and that the policy is adhered to by all practitioners.

Included with today’s notice is an example chaperone policy.

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