Patient molested at Shands, nurse says

Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 1:31 a.m.

The University Police Department is investigating a report Thursday that a respiratory therapist at Shands at the University of Florida molested a comatose patient.

A registered nurse on Jan. 9 passed by the patient's bed and saw the respiratory therapist appear to check the patient's breathing, according to a University of Florida police report. The nurse noticed the stethoscope was not in an area relevant to breathing and then saw the male respiratory therapist massaging the 47-year-old woman's breast, the report said.

The respiratory therapist turned around, and the nurse acted like she was reading the patient's chart, police said. The respiratory therapist finished "suctioning" the patient and left, the report said.

The incident was reported to UPD on Wednesday. Shands officials were trying to contact the patient's power of attorney.

Police are in the first stages of the investigation and have not filed any charges, UPD Lt. Joe Sharkey said Thursday.

Shands officials released a prepared statement, but would not comment any further on the investigation.

"We're conducting a thorough internal investigation and working closely with local law enforcement regarding this allegation," said Lance Skelly, a Shands spokesman, reading the prepared statement. "While the health and well-being of our patients and customers is our top priority, our organizational policy at Shands HealthCare also respects employee privacy and prevents us from providing additional information at this time while this situation is under investigation."

Respiratory therapists provide airway mechanical ventilation support and levels of therapy including inhalation treatment and chest physical therapy, oxygen therapy, patient monitoring, and emergency support, Skelly said. They are required to have an associate's or bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy or cardiopulmonary respiratory technology.

Shands HealthCare does a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with drug testing, on all employees they hire, Skelly said.

Kathy Ciotola can be reached at 338-3109 or

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