Post 13 Can sexual harrassment ever be accidental?

When Dr Richard Alexander went to work on that lovely spring morning in April 2010, he had no idea that he would come within an inch of an accusation of sexual harassment.  When I say ‘an inch’, I mean a metaphorical inch, not the sort of an inch of which a blue comedian might speak when telling a ‘men’s locker room joke’ after the nine o’clock watershed!  Let me explain.

David Brain was a youngish, good looking bachelor who rather fancied himself with the ladies.  His name was entirely appropriate for he was a bright, quick-witted individual;  indeed many thought that he could be making more of his life than working for a company that specialised in the demolition of old buildings.  Equally, had his name been David Brawn that would have been equally apposite, for he was a tough muscular individual who regularly worked out in the gym.  He was also a county rugby player regarded as a possible future international.

Because his job often brought him into contact with asbestos, he was required to undergo a statutory annual medical examination.  The examination was a requirement of the Health and Safety Executive’s control of Asbestos Regulations, as modified to be compliant with the European Commission’s Directive (83/477/EEC) relating to workers exposed to the risks of asbestos at work!!!   This is not the place to start a discussion on Brexit - so I won’t!

A physical examination was required as well as a lung function test, so an appointment was made for him to see Dr Alexander, one of the general practitioners in his local practice who had a particular interest in industrial medicine.

A couple of weeks before, Dr Alexander, (‘Ricky’ to his friend and ‘Dr Ricky’ to many of his patients), had undergone a hip replacement surgery.   Thankfully, his convalescence was proceeding smoothly;  indeed he was pottering about quite easily and climbing stairs without any difficulty.  For the first few days he had used a pair of elbow crutches to get about but, having a positive attitude, he had already discarded one of them.  Further, being a conscientious doctor, eager to return to work and conscious that his absence was placing an extra strain on his partners, he was back in his consulting room within three weeks of his operation.

In truth, this was at a stage of his convalescence when any of his patients who had undergone a similar procedure, would undoubtedly still be off work.  Indeed, he readily acknowledged that had such a patient consulted him, even those employed in a sedentary occupation, he would undoubtedly have offered them a sick note.

Rickie had already seen three patients before David Brain arrived.  One man had a back injury after heavy lifting, another needed his blood lead level estimating following occupational exposure while burning through steel girders painted with red lead and a woman required an examination for ill health retirement.

When David entered the room, Dr Ricky placed his elbow crutch behind his chair, introduced himself then invited the patient to sit.  He apologised for being a little immobile but explained about his recent operation.  He then embarked on his medical assessment.

Having taken a history and completed the necessary paper work, he needed to examine David’s chest.  He therefore told David to go behind the screen and undress.  In fact he only needed the patient to strip to the waist but when David reappeared he was wearing only a pair of white cotton briefs which emphasised his pleasantly tanned and well toned muscular frame.  Although Dr Ricky was as straight as a die, he couldn’t fail to be impressed!

Dr Ricky rose from his chair, used his elbow crutch to walk round the desk then hung the crutch loosely over his arm.  Taking his stethoscope out of his pocket, he listened to the back of his patient’s chest without realising that the hand piece of the elbow crutch was rocking in and out, up and down against his patient’s anal area.

The patient became anxious, his muscles tensed then he took a step forward.

‘Hey, keep still will you,’ Dr Ricky said.  He also took a stride forward to continue his examination.  Inevitably the crutch followed suit.

Then David’s entire body became rigid.  He stopped breathing and slowly turned his head to look over his shoulder.

 His facial expression was a mixture of concern and anger.  He looked down at his own backside then up at the doctor. He relaxed and laughed.

F***ing hell, Doc” he said “thank God that’s not what I thought it was!

Based on a story submitted by Dr R Marcus, MB ChB,  FFOM, MRCGP. Consultant Occupational Physician.
Quotation of the day
A little still she strove, and much repented,
And whispering ‘I will ne’er consent – consented.'
Lord Byron  1788 - 1824

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