Substantial Settlement: Children’s Hospital_Predatory Psychiatrist_Sexual Assault

The Boston Herald reports: “A young patient who was sexually assaulted by a
predatory psychiatrist has reached a “substantial” settlement with him and
other doctors who she says let her be victimized when she was a vulnerable,
suicidal teen.”

The case, like so many others that do not reach public notice, underscores
one of the unacknowledged dirty secrets of psychiatric institutions:
patients, especially young females, are at risk of being sexually molested
by staff.

Maria Fallon, now 20, says supervisors at Boston Children’s Hospital knew
Dr. Param Shukla already had been accused of assaulting a young girl in 1999
when they assigned him to her case in April 2000.   Fallon was in the
psychiatric unit at Children’s because her mother was dying of brain cancer
and Fallon, then 13, had just tried to kill herself.

Typical of how institutions shield sexual predators, the Herald reports that
even though the hospital moved the psychiatrist a to a research job in 1999
“while they investigated a 12-year-old girl’s complaint that he had fondled
her, [sic] the charges were never filed in that case, and after Shukla
underwent a psychiatric assessment, he was allowed to see female patients
again.”

Shukla, a married 38-year-old dad at the time,  lost his medical license in
2000, and was sentenced to probation in 2004 for indecent assault
and battery on a child for fondling Fallon during the five days she was on
suicide watch.

This is not an isolated case. A long-established culture at psychiatric
institutions shields professional staff who prey on vulnerable patients.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974
veracare@ahrp.org

http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=180772
THE BOSTON HERALD
Children’s docs settle abuse suit: Shrink fondled girl, 13
By Jessica Fargen
Boston Herald Health & Medical Reporter
Saturday, February 3, 2007

A young patient who was sexually assaulted by a
predatory psychiatrist has reached a “substantial”
settlement with him and other doctors who she says let
her be victimized when she was a vulnerable, suicidal
teen.

Maria Fallon, now 20, says supervisors at
Children’s Hospital knew Dr. Param Shukla already had
been accused of assaulting a young girl when they
assigned him to her case in April 2000.

“He took advantage of the fact that I was not in a
good spot myself to know proper conduct,” said Fallon,
of Milton. When he began fondling her, she recalled,
“I thought this is my doctor . . . I was scared and
really embarrassed.”

Fallon was in the psychiatric unit at Children’s
because her mother was dying of brain cancer and
Fallon, then 13, had just tried to kill herself.

“It was unfair. I feel like anyone in a psych
(unit) is vulnerable,” she said. “I was really angry.
I felt like I had been thrown into something I could
have avoided when I didn’t need it in my life . . . He
should have been watched closer and I should have been
more protected by the hospital.”

In 1999, Children’s moved Shukla to a research job
while they investigated a 12-year-old girl’s complaint
that he had fondled her. But charges were never filed
in that case, and after Shukla underwent a psychiatric
assessment, he was allowed to see female patients
again.

Shukla, who lost his medical license in 2000, was
sentenced to probation in 2004 for indecent assault
and battery on a child for fondling Fallon during the
five days she was on suicide watch. A married
38-year-old dad at the time, Shukla was also accused
of sending Fallon sexually charged e-mails and begging
to be her boyfriend.

Fallon’s civil suit was due to go to trial
yesterday, but her lawyer, William Thompson of Lubin
and Meyer, said they settled the civil suit Thursday
night against Shukla, a resident at the time, and his
supervisors, Dr. William Beardslee and Dr. Stuart J.
Goldman. Thompson said the settlement was for a
“substantial” amount of money, but the terms and
amount are confidential. Attorneys for the three
doctors did not return calls seeking comment. Shukla,
who is now living in his native India, could not be
reached.

Children’s spokeswoman Bess Andrews, speaking for
Beardslee and Goldman, said: “No amount of due
diligence or monitoring can prevent the intentional
type of behavior in which Shukla is alleged to have
engaged.” There was no admission of negligence in the
settlement on the part of Goldman and Beardslee, who
still work at the hospital, Andrews said.

Fallon said she is relieved she won’t have to
testify. But she said she won’t see male doctors
anymore, and suffers panic and anxiety attacks.

“It’s just been like a setback on my life,” said
Fallon, now a college sophomore. “It’s good to put it
behind me and start to finally move on. It’s been in
the back of my mind for seven years.”

jfargen@bostonherald.com

 

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