A former patient is suing a New York City hospital, accusing the institution of covering up a sexual assault allegedly perpetrated by a doctor in 2021.
The female patient, who is unnamed in the lawsuit filed Monday night, is suing NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital along with several staff members. She is accusing the hospital of covering up a sexual assault by Dr. Zhi Alan Cheng, who she said drugged her with an unknown substance and filmed her assault in the exam room.
Cheng was arrested and charged with felony rape last year and is currently awaiting trial, according to inmate records.
Attorneys for Cheng told HuffPost that they would “respond in court” to the allegations and that as of Tuesday afternoon they had not received or reviewed the lawsuit filing.
At the time of the alleged incident, the patient was 19, did not speak English and had recently moved to the United States from South America.
Cheng had first come into contact with the patient at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Queens. He examined her alone on June 20, 2021, two days after she was admitted to the emergency room with severe abdominal pain caused by gallstones.
The lawsuit, which was obtained by HuffPost, states that Cheng performed an unnecessary and invasive rectal examination on the patient during their first encounter.
Later the same day, Cheng allegedly used an employee ID to unlock the door to the stairwell near the patient’s room and entered alone, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that nurses were not appropriately monitoring the patient and visiting her room regularly.
Cheng then injected an unknown drug into the patient’s IV bag, which was connected to her arm, the lawsuit says. The drug made her feel immense pain and quickly lose consciousness, and he began to sexually assault her on video without her knowing, the suit states.
Dr. Sang Hoon Kim, one of the doctors who is also named in the lawsuit, allegedly signed off to witness the exam in his report with “boilerplate language” that he copied from a template.
The lawsuit says that Kim had made false statements in his procedure notes, including that the patient was receiving “twilight anesthesia.” The notes also failed to mention she was rectally penetrated during the procedure.
After Cheng left, the patient notified a hospital employee that a doctor had given her a painful injection that knocked her out. At this point, she did not know she had been sexually assaulted, the lawsuit says.
According to attorneys, the hospital put together a lineup of male doctors, and the patient identified Cheng as the one who had given her the injection. But the hospital allegedly did not do anything else about the patient’s report.
“The hospital made no notes about the lineup in medical records, did not notify police and failed to suspend or terminate Dr. Cheng,” attorneys representing the patient said in a news release. “Further, the hospital did not collect any forensic evidence, including robe or bedsheets, did not test the plaintiff’s blood to determine what she was injected with, or offer her sufficient and timely support services.”
The day after the identification lineup, Cheng continued to treat the patient while she was sedated during surgery.
Christopher Daviess, another doctor named in the lawsuit, was allegedly informed on June 23, 2021, by a staff member that the patient had been sexually assaulted by Cheng.
The lawsuit alleges that Daviess delayed the patient’s release from the hospital in order to draw her blood to test for HIV, without her consent or knowledge, and failed to tell her they believed she had been assaulted.
Upon her discharge, Daviess gave the patient a packet of hundreds of pages of discharge papers in English that included a “sexual assault bill of rights.” The few papers that were in Spanish were confusing to her because she did not know she had been sexually assaulted yet, the suit states.
The patient would not find out about the assault until more than a year later, in April 2023, when authorities called her and her mother in to tell them that they found footage of Cheng sexually assaulting the young woman while she was unconscious, according to the document.
Cheng was arrested on Dec 27, 2022, after a woman with whom he was in an intimate relationship told police that she discovered a video of Cheng sedating and sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions while she spent the night in his apartment.
Police said they found multiple videos of Cheng sexually abusing other victims, including the patient.
NewYork-Presbyterian told HuffPost in a statement that it was “appalled and deeply saddened” by what the patient endured. The hospital said that once the district attorney made it aware of the case, Cheng had been “immediately placed off duty, banned from hospital property, and terminated.”
“As caregivers, we are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of our patients. It is a sacred trust,” the hospital’s statement says. “The crimes committed by this individual are heinous, despicable, and a fundamental betrayal of our mission and our patients’ trust.”
The statement adds that NewYork-Presbyterian has numerous stringent patient safety policies and protocols in place.
“Our exhaustive review of this matter included an analysis of compliance with those policies, as well as the immediate implementation of additional training for all employees,” the hospital said. “At the same time, we have been examining the full breadth of our protections to identify any opportunities for further strengthening, in line with our unwavering commitment to the highest standard of patient safety and care.”
But Adam Slater, one of the attorneys representing the patient, said in a statement that this not the first time he’s sued NewYork-Presbyterian on behalf of people who were sexually assaulted by the hospital staff.
In 2021, Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian came to a $71.5 million settlement with 79 women who were former patients of former gynecologist Robert Hadden, who was convicted this year of sexually assaulting his patients.
“At the time of my firm’s previous settlement with NewYork-Presbyterian, a spokesperson for the medical system vowed to never let what Robert Hadden did happen to another patient again,” Slater said in the news release. “Less than two years later, my firm is filing another lawsuit against the same hospital system for employing yet another predatory doctor.”
Slater added that the failure to protect patients wasn’t isolated but systemic, and he encouraged survivors to reach out for legal representation.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.