The female patient vividly remembers her visit eight years ago to the UCLA office of Dr. James Heaps. He was a respected gynecologist at a revered medical institution. There was a female chaperone in the examination room, but she had her back to the patient.
Without gloves, the doctor began by cupping and fondling the patient’s breast in what seemed like an overly long exam, she said. “I thought that was a little odd,” she recalled. Next, Heaps performed a pap smear and after removing the device, she said, “he stroked my clitoris from top to bottom. I froze. I’d never been touched by a doctor like that.”
The patient hurriedly dressed and dashed out of the office.
“I called a friend,” she said. “I told her I just got molested by my doctor.” The words made her feel awful, she said, and she never wanted to discuss it again. But after Dr. James Heaps was criminally charged in 2019 with abusing his patients, the Los Angeles woman called UCLA to report on her own experience.
In January, a judge approved a $73-million class-action settlement with more than 5,000 former patients of Dr. James Heaps who said they were sexually battered by the physician. In the settlement, UCLA and Heaps, 67, who was employed at the UCLA student health center and UCLA Medical Center from 1983 to 2019, did not admit any wrongdoing.
But the 49-year-old patient, whose alleged experience with the doctor dates back to 2013, said she isn’t about to settle her case.
This week the woman sued UCLA and Heaps along with another female patient who alleges she too was inappropriately touched by Dr. James Heaps , during an examination in 1992. Identified as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, the women are suing over allegations of sexual assault, sexual battery, emotional distress and negligence. The Times is not naming any of the plaintiffs in keeping with its policy regarding victims of sexual assault.
“There must be accountability,” said Sandra Ribera Speed, one of the attorneys representing the women. She said the class action settlement approved in January might work for some victims, but others want answers.