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Dr Steven Levy allowed back into practice

  • Judgement
A Johannesburg doctor who was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for sexually abusing female patients has been allowed to return to work at the end of this month following a year of suspension.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Aug 16, 2018

This was confirmed when an appeal against his sentence was dismissed by an appeal committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) last Friday.

Dr Steven Levy was found guilty by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) of the Medical and Dental Professions Board in 2017 of unprofessional conduct and of performing acts of a sexual nature on three patients. He was then effectively suspended for a year.

It was almost five years after the first complaint was lodged that he was found guilty on 31 July 2017, and suspended on 23 August that year from practicing as a doctor for a period of three years. Two years of this period would be suspended on condition that he was not found guilty of a similar offence committed during the period of his suspension.

The initial inquiry into Levy’s conduct took place over five days in February last year, in which three women testified at length about Levy’s conduct after he performed acts of a sexual nature. Several other witnesses were called to testify.

Levy was found guilty of performing prolonged rectal examinations that had not been medically indicated, as well as unnecessary vaginal examinations, also not medically indicated.

The PCC found Levy guilty of performing acts of a sexual nature on three patients dating back to 2011.

Five patients lodged complaints with the HPCSA as early as 2012.

The pro-forma complainant of the HPCSA, Ernie Janzen, said he had filed his intention to appeal against the penalty handed down by the committee, as he felt the penalty was too lenient. “One year for such serious charges is not suitable,” he said at the time.

The judgement in this appeal, handed down last week, found the sentence to be appropriate, dismissing this and Levy’s counter appeal against his sentence.

It stated that the evidence on record was “overwhelming against” Levy, confirming his conviction for the acts of a sexual nature which he committed against all three complainants.

Levy was ordered to undergo therapy under the supervision of a medical practitioner for a period of 12 months. It was suggested that he undergo traditional counselling combined with group therapy at his own cost. He was ordered to submit detailed continuous feedback on his progress, and sign a consent form.

Furthermore he was ordered to participate in “restorative justice programmes/activities” for a period of 12 months, that would be determined by the council to help him to recover and to come to terms with his unprofessional conduct. The judgement suggested, for example, working with an non-governmental organisation that assisted victims of abuse.

Levy, who chose not to testify in his defence, told the SA Jewish Report this week: “I have co-operated fully with the regulator, and as the legal due process has been finalised, I have no further comment to make.” His WhatsApp status reads, “Humble, Grateful & Blessed”.

The women he is accused of violating have declined to comment for now. It is understood that they were hoping Levy would be removed from the register of medical practitioners.

The judgement said: “It is true that offences of a sexual nature are very serious in the circumstances of this case, especially when the victims trusted him as their medical doctor.

“These offences are also serious as they were committed repeatedly, and to different patients.”

The matter went before the appeal committee on 26 July this year, and submissions were heard from both parties.

In addressing the appeal committee, the complainant submitted that the PCC was correct in finding Dr Levy guilty as charged, but that it had “misdirected itself in sentencing”.

The complainant submitted that the offences were of a “serious nature” as Levy had “penetrated some of his victims, and the only appropriate sentence was to remove him from the register of medical practitioners”.

The complainant said the HPCSA had a duty to protect the public from medical practitioners who exhibited “deviant behaviour” and that the committee had not taken into account all the evidence on record. It went on to say the committee erred by not ordering Levy to attend therapy, and it did not take into account that Levy showed no signs of remorse.

The complainant said that the committee accepted the testimony of Levy’s witnesses, such as the fact that he is “a good husband; he has long service as a medical practitioner; and that he is a breadwinner for his children and family, without taking into account the damage caused to the women”.

The complainant said his lenient sentence would not serve Levy any purpose because he might commit the offences again, and that “a strong message should be sent to the society” by the appeal committee in “removing him from registration of medical practitioners”.

Representatives for Levy argued for a cross appeal on the matter against both the merits and sentence. They contended that the complainant failed to prove Levy’s guilt, and therefore the committee’s ruling should be “set aside”. They also insisted his sentence was “shockingly harsh and inappropriate”. They also maintained that Levy’s long service as a medical practitioner, and the fact that his patients saw him as a caring doctor should have been used in his favour when deciding on his sentence.

Levy’s representatives said the committee shouldn’t be harsh on Levy because he had chosen to remain silent during mitigation of his sentence.

Evidence in mitigation of his sentence by his witnesses could not be ignored, according to last week’s judgement. This included that he was a first offender and therefore a good candidate for rehabilitation. Also, the committee took into consideration the interests of his children, and the fact that he was his family’s sole breadwinner. It also accepted that “he is a first offender who, by and large, was a productive member of society who made positive contribution for most of his life”.

To date it is understood that Levy has not offered an apology to the women.

2 Comments

  1. 2 Bill 16 Aug
    Mazaltov, Dr levy!!

    Great news for the local community.

    Now if only your accusers showed the courage of their convictions and emerged from behind the veil of anonymity....
  2. 1 Julian Gecelter 17 Aug
    Regarding Dr Steven Levy - I agree that there is a responsibility to follow through with an article but front page headlines is quite ugly on your part

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