A former patient testified Tuesday that she felt as if she was involved in a strip show when a then-UCLA campus gynecologist told her to stand up and bend over while he examined her a few days before she underwent a hysterectomy.
The woman — who is among a number of former patients who have been called to the stand during Dr. James Mason Heaps’ criminal trial — said she saw the gynecologist/oncologist twice, including a presurgical appointment in which he instructed her to get off of the examination table and bend over so he could show her what fibroids would be removed. She said there was no nurse or chaperone in the room.
Heaps, now 65, is on trial for nine counts each of sexual battery by fraud and penetration of an unconscious person by fraudulent representation, along with three counts of sexual exploitation of a patient.
The charges stem from alleged crimes between 2009 and 2018 involving seven of Heaps’ former patients, including “Jane T.”
“I bent over slightly because I was a little embarrassed,” the woman said, telling jurors that Heaps wasn’t wearing gloves during that examination.
Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers, she said she felt “very embarrassed” when he asked if she could bend over a little more, describing it as “like it was a strip show almost” and saying that his hands were “all over.”
“I was thinking I hope there’s not a camera in here,” she said, noting that she stood up after her legs started to hurt.
The woman told the downtown Los Angeles jury that Heaps moved his face close to hers — probably within four or five inches — during a prior examination without anyone else in the room, and that she had “absolutely not” ever had an examination like that before.
When asked under cross-examination by defense attorney Leonard Levine what she had told a friend about the second appointment, the former patient recalled it feeling “strange — like it was somewhat of a porno feeling.”
The woman — who said she had done a lot of research and changed medical groups so she could see Heaps after being told that she might have Stage 4 cancer — told jurors she never returned to see Heaps after he performed the hysterectomy.
“I wasn’t going to allow him to do any further examinations on me,” she said.
The prosecutor told jurors during her opening statement earlier this month the prosecution alleges that Heaps’ actions were committed “for sexual gratification,” and called it “one of the worst abuses of trust.”
“They trusted the university. They trusted the defendant,” the prosecutor said of the alleged victims, whom she said either had emergency medical situations that needed to be dealt with or were dealing with cancer or potential cancer.
She said an initial investigation into allegations of misconduct by Heaps went “nowhere,” with a subsequent investigation resulting in a grand jury indictment that was returned last year against Heaps.
Heaps’ attorney countered that his client performed the examinations for a “legitimate medical purpose” and that he was accompanied by trained medical assistants acting as chaperones who were present in the examination rooms.
Levine said his client has been “painted as a monster in the press” and urged jurors to “stay tuned.”
“We will prove he is innocent,” the defense attorney told the panel.
Heaps served as a gynecologist/oncologist, affiliated with UCLA, for nearly 35 years. At various times, he saw patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and at his office at 100 Medical Plaza.
At one time, Heaps was reportedly the highest paid physician in the UC system and had treated about 6,000 patients, attorneys said.
More than 500 lawsuits were filed against Heaps and UCLA, accusing the school of failing to protect patients after becoming aware of the misconduct.
In May, attorneys for 312 former patients of Heaps announced a $374 million settlement of abuse lawsuits against the University of California.
The settlement came on top of a $243.6 million resolution of lawsuits involving about 200 patients announced in February, and a $73 million settlement of federal lawsuits reached last year involving roughly 5,500 plaintiffs.
The lawsuits alleged that UCLA actively and deliberately concealed Heaps’ sexual abuse of patients. UCLA continued to allow Heaps to have unfettered sexual access to female patients — many of whom were cancer patients — at the university, plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged in the suits.