Former Nursing Assistant Guillermo Fernando Diaz has been accused of sexually assaulting two female patients of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Hospital. The alleged assaults both took place last year, and were looked into by police after separate reports were filed against the aide by the two women, in which details were reportedly almost identical. The nursing aide, previously assigned to an area within patient heart care, reportedly entered the room of a woman who had been medicated prior to surgery; the sexual assault took place when she was too weak to physically resist. Reports by both patients were similar.
Once police began investigating, other things about the former aide and his past came to light. Diaz allegedly raped a former coworker after a Cedars-Sinai staff party some ten years ago, and also had a fourteen-year-old sexual assault complaint that had been made by another patient, which was similar to the ones made this past year. Hospital administration says the reason these accusations were never before grouped is because of the singular manner in which claims are filed. Since the most recent accusations and Diaz’s removal, the hospital is looking into consolidating their databases on these matters to help in the process of preventing future such crimes.
Diaz has had his nursing license revoked, but not until he had the opportunity to assault at least three patients (and one civilian). He would not speak with the Associated Press, who first broke this story in the media.
In an unrelated incident, a male patient at Gaston Memorial Hospital in North Carolina reportedly raped a heavily medicated female patient in that hospital in 2011. A sergeant in charge of the former case said that the evidence was “pretty overwhelming,” though the man denied the accusation. The woman in question who was victimized was 35-years-old and was unknown to the perpetrator, one Howard Gillespie. The accused had a record including a former conviction in a sexual-assault case, as well as habitual misdemeanors. When asked how this could have happened, the North Carolina hospital declined interviews, saying only they had been advised not to speak with reporters. The victim was heavily medicated at the time of the incident and was not fully aware of everything that happened to her, and reportedly was “not in a state to fight back.”
It is clear that such acts of assault against medicated female patients in hospitals are not singular to one medical establishment. Further investigation would likely uncover many such former cases, historically if not all recent. While a hospital may well be asked how an act such as a patient assault on another could happen, and this question is both understandable and warranted, it is another thing entirely to wonder how a hospital aide could not once, but repeatedly, be accused of perpetrating sexual assault on patients. Women who are in hospital and know they are to be medicated to the point of helplessness need to have better advocacy, through family members’ and friends’ presence when possible, but certainly through better monitoring by the institution itself. If women are just as unsafe or potentially more so in this situation than on the street with strangers, what does this say for Cedars-Sinai and other institutions that are supposed to care for patients’ well-being?
Opinion by Julie Mahfood
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