The Larry Nassar sexual assault case was a life-altering journey of heartbreak for his victims and a scandalous and hugely disappointing blow to the field of sports medicine. And it has illuminated the distressing fact that the moral compass of sports medicine (perhaps all of medicine) is off. After more than 150 young women bravely came forward with their stories of Nassar's sexual assault spanning more than two decades, the result was concurrent convictions and a sentence that will leave this disgraced doctor behind bars for the remainder of his life. But the story isn't over for his victims, nor should it be for the rest of us in the medical community. We have major lessons to learn here, and we have to put in the work to ensure this never happens again to the most vulnerable among us who entrust their doctors to "first do no harm."
It's clearer now than ever before that the trusting relationship between physician and athlete (or any patient) has been tarnished and violated. Like the feeling of relief when a police officer shows up to a crime scene, patients have long held an innate feeling of trust in and comfort with physicians, believing that we possess the knowledge and the morality to always act in the patient's best interest. But what happens when this agreement is broken? Sexual assault in the doctor's office disguised as medical treatment robs patients of trust and leaves them confused, helpless and broken. As more and more allegations become known, it's a calling for all medical professionals to reevaluate the ethical standards in our arena. Denouncing Larry Nassar and his preying upon young female athletes with our words alone is simply not enough. No, this requires physicians throughout the country to act so that we can ensure nobody has to endure this type of emotional pain again.
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