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Berlin HIV specialist on trial for sexual abuse patients

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Jim Allen:
This does not fit any forum section so decided to post it here.

Five men accuse an HIV specialist of sexual abuse. The public prosecutor brought charges five years ago, and the process is only now beginning.

https://www.rbb24.de/panorama/beitrag/2021/04/prozessbeginn-sexueller-missbrauch-hiv-arzt-berlin.html

Below a google translate to English for those that can't read German. The verdict should be in June and ill post an update.


--- Quote ---The doctor
You have to start by saying that this is not about just any doctor. The 62-year-old is an internationally acclaimed and recognized expert in the treatment of HIV and AIDS. A man who has received attention and respect for his work far beyond the boundaries of the city and the country. For more than 25 years he has devoted his professional life to fighting this disease. His scientific life achievement is undisputed.

However, it is unclear whether his treatment methods are simply unconventional or violate the criminal code. That will now be clarified before the jury.

The indictment speaks of unsolicited hugs by the doctor; he is said to have tried to kiss patients; it is described that they are said to have been asked to undress completely for no apparent reason or further explanation; he is said to have complimented the men on their private parts, which were found to be uncomfortable; in some cases he is said to have massaged the prostate until the affected person would have obtained an erection and then simultaneously massaged the penis of the men until ejaculation occurred; in one case the doctor is said to have exposed himself, in another case the treatment room was locked before the examination.

The doctor's lawyers firmly deny the men's representations. There were no inappropriate compliments, advances or attempts to kiss, according to their statement in the indictment. Any form of physical stimulation is explained by the fact that necessary tests had to be carried out for sexually transmitted infections or potentially serious diseases; In any case, the patients had been informed about the procedures beforehand.

The Berlin judiciary
Originally, the process should have started in April of last year. The pandemic prevented that. Hundreds of court appointments have been canceled and postponed to ensure sanitary negotiations can be possible. However, the prosecution's indictment was drawn up more than five years ago: it has existed since February 4, 2016.

"I think you have to start earlier," says Undine Weyers. The lawyer represents one of the five men appearing as joint plaintiffs. "It has taken the public prosecutor many years to even bring an indictment." After all, her client filed a criminal complaint in 2013, she says. The long wait was an emotional roller coaster ride for the man. "He doesn't feel that he is being taken seriously at all," said Weyers.

Some aid agencies are downright angry at the length of time the case is being processed. Last August, the Berlin gay counseling service wrote a letter to Justice Senator Dirk Berehndt (Alliance 90 / The Greens). "We consider the damage to survivors of sexualised violence and the signaling effect beyond the specific case to be fatal if the judiciary does not manage to conduct this criminal process at all," it says.

In an answer, Behrendt's office points to the independence of the judiciary. In addition, the President of the Tiergarten District Court had already stated that the main hearing was scheduled in such a way that a judgment could be expected before the statute of limitations would apply. "It would really be a defeat for the judiciary," says lawyer Weyers. "I mean, they had ten years."

The media
The doctor's lawyers have taken several actions in the past against reports on this matter. Particularly sensational was a confrontation with "Buzzfeed" and "Vice". Reporters from the two media outlets tracked down other men who claimed they had been molested or abused by the doctor. They had confronted the doctor with their results. The answer came in writing through the lawyer, who forbade reporters to quote from his letter. Instead, it came to trial.
Shortly after publication, the Berlin district court ruled in October 2019 that the articles had to be taken offline. In principle, a strong public interest was determined in the judgment, which results from the doctor's reputation and the seriousness of the allegations. The extent of the research from which the reporters derived their suspicions was also praised - on the one hand. On the other hand, the court assessed the way in which the testimony and allegations were presented as prejudicial.

Juliane Löffler researched the topic for "Buzzfeed" for months. Today she is employed by the company as a senior reporter. The judgment of the regional court surprised and disappointed her, she says today. "I think it is important that we reporters have the freedom to report in detail on serious allegations of abuse. That is why we appealed the judgment and at least partially got the right in the higher instance."

In the second instance last December, the Court of Appeal decided. The nature of the reporting was deemed "essentially permissible", especially since the doctor had been given an opportunity to respond. As before, the court was critical of passages in the text in which verbatim quotations had been attributed to the doctor, which, however, arose from the memories of those allegedly affected. Such passages must be revised before the texts can be published again, according to the appellate court.

The court also saw no problem in the fact that the first name and the abbreviated surname of the doctor appeared in the articles. In Germany this is actually only usual when a trial has been opened. In the court records, the doctor is referred to as "Karl J." designated. However, he has practiced and researched under a middle name throughout his career.

The Berlin Medical Association
The case could also be uncomfortable for the Berlin Medical Association. If it turns out in court that the doctor has actually abused the patient's trust, the question will arise whether the chamber should have acted. "The Berlin Medical Association is the right contact for all complaints that relate to violations of medical professional duties in the state of Berlin," the chamber informs patients on its website. One of these professional duties is explicitly the "respectful treatment" of the medical practitioner with the patient.

When asked about the case, the medical association reacts tightly. For "data protection reasons" one will not comment. In such cases, there is not much that can be done, according to the tenor. "The Berlin Medical Association is not responsible for granting as well as for withdrawing and ordering the suspension of medical license [...], but the so-called licensing authority," said a spokesman. Approbations, i.e. professional permits, are issued by the State Office for Health and Social Affairs. "The Berlin Medical Association can therefore not take any measures under licensing law." Only: What did the Chamber do when patients complained about the doctor?

According to lawyer Weyers, the Berlin Medical Association received reports from patients about the doctor's alleged misconduct by 2012 at the latest. Some of the cases that are now being heard in court are said to have happened only afterwards.

At the latest after the public prosecutor had filed charges, the Berlin Medical Association tried to obtain further information about the doctor. On October 6, 2016, there was a conversation with the gay counseling service. A specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy reported what had been reported to him and his colleagues over the years about the doctor in the consultation. When asked, the gay counseling service said: "Since the end of the 1990s, clients of the gay counseling service have regularly reported in counseling sessions about border violations by [doctor's name], an estimated 100 people." This is what it says in the minutes of the conversation with the Berlin Medical Association.

A verdict is due on June 14. If the court finds the doctor guilty, he faces a prison sentence of between three months and five years.

Contribution by Oliver Noffke
--- End quote ---

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