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New York legislation inspired by sex assault survivor would combat abuse by doctors

Women suing Columbia Univ. & hospitals

A New York State legislator is proposing a trio of bills inspired by a woman whose story shed light on a Columbia University doctor accused of sexually assaulting dozens of pregnant women in his care.

Assembly member Aravella Simotas said that the legislation stemmed from testimony given Friday by Marissa Hoechstetter. In December, Hoechstetter spoke with CBS News about the abuse she said she endured while Dr. Robert Hadden oversaw her pregnancy with twins and postpartum care. 

Hoechstetter was one of 17 women to sue Columbia University for negligence in the case, with at least five more suing separately. She is the only plaintiff to reveal her name.

Simotas' first bill would close a loophole that Hoechstetter pointed out to legislators on Friday. New York is currently one of just six states that does not mandate that all medical professionals pass background checks in order to be licensed. Another bill would force doctors to provide written notice to patients if they are subject to ongoing proceedings, placed on probation or disciplined by the state. 

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Marissa Hoechstetter in a taxi on her way to deliver twins at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in April 2011. Courtesy of Marissa Hoechstetter

In her interview with CBS News, Hoechstetter said for years she worried that other doctors might further victimize her.

"It has deeply affected my life. I did not go to doctors for a number of years. I have to think really carefully about who I'm going to see," Hoechstetter said.

Another bill in Simotas' package would require the state to publicize the rights and reporting options available to patients who have been subjected to sexual misconduct.

"A major issue that emerged from Marissa's story was how incredibly difficult it is for someone who has been sexually abused by their doctor to navigate our reporting systems," Simotas said in a press release. "It is crucial that we make information on the Office of Professional Medical Conduct's complaint procedures clear and accessible to all patients."

Hoechstetter praised the legislation in a statement accompanying Simotas' press release.

"As a survivor of sexual assault by my OB/GYN while I was pregnant, this package of bills represents a huge step forward towards ensuring that what happened to me won't happen to other patients," Hoechstetter said. 

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