IHS failed to protect patients from physician's abuse, lawsuit claims

Three Native American men claim the Indian Health Service failed to protect them from sexual abuse by Stanley Patrick Weber, MD, during the 1990s, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"They just kept their mouths shut because I guess he was a good doctor," one plaintiff said of IHS in an interview with the WSJ. The 35-year-old man said he was assaulted as a child more than a dozen times by Dr. Weber.

Dr. Weber served as a pediatrician for the IHS for almost 30 years before resigning amid a 2016 investigation. He is currently serving an 18-year prison term for sexually assaulting young boys at a hospital in Montana. He is appealing the conviction and awaits sentencing in another case for sexually assaulting patients in South Dakota. 

The new suit cites an 1855 treaty asserting that "the United States is hereby bound to protect Indians against depredations" and crimes by outsiders. The suit is the first civil action case seeking financial compensation from the government regarding Dr. Weber, asking for $3 million per plaintiff.

Last year, a WSJ and PBS Frontline investigation showed IHS officials ignored complaints about Dr. Weber for decades. After the investigation, the agency said it immediately overhauled how sexual abuse cases were handled, according to WSJ.  

The IHS does not comment on pending litigation, according to a statement cited by the WSJ.  Dr. Weber's attorneys did not respond to the WSJ for comment.

The lawsuit is a continuation of troubles facing the IHS, such as inadequate funding, understaffing and faulty hiring practices that have resulted in at least 66 patient deaths.   

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