Dr. James Mason Heaps, 62, is an obstetrician-gynecologist who worked part-time at UCLA’s health center from 1983 – 2010 and is accused of sexually abusing his patients. Dr. Heaps has been charged with two counts of sexual battery by fraud and one count of sexual exploitation following allegations from two of his former patients.
Both patients allege that Dr. Heaps inappropriately touched them during routine exams. One of his accusers claims Heaps touched her buttocks while he was examining her lower back and touched her breasts in 2017. Two other women filed similar complaints about Dr. Heaps in 2014 and 2015.
UCLA Health bought Dr. James Mason Heaps private practice in 2010 and the doctor earned a $1.045 million salary from the university in 2017. He turned himself in Monday and was released by the Los Angeles district attorney on bail. UCLA is currently conducting an independent review of how it responds to sexual misconduct claims in clinical settings.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Retired in 2018 When UCLA Tried to Fire Him
UCLA investigated the sexual misconduct allegations in 2017 and found that similar complaints had been made in 2014 and 2015 but never followed up on. UCLA investigated and determined that Dr. Heaps had violated their code of conduct. In April 2018, they told Dr. Heaps that he would not be reappointed then placed him on leave and announced his retirement later in the month.
The medical board was never notified of his actions and UCLA did not publicize the reason behind him not being reappointed.
2. Dr. James Mason Heaps has Maintained his Innocence
Dr. Heaps has not commented publicly on the matter but his lawyer, Tracy Green, has stated he is not guilty and that the touching in each case was medically necessary. “Everything was done for a medical reason,” Green said. “These are baseless allegations. He’s a respected, talented and thorough gynecological oncologist who always sought to treat his patients with dignity and respect.”
Green also went on to clarify that the allegations involve two women that were not UCLA students but went to his clinic in 2017 and 2018.
3. UCLA is Facing Scrutiny for not Reporting His Crimes
According to the Los Angeles Times, “UCLA launched an internal investigation after receiving a patient complaint in December 2017 of inappropriate and medically unnecessary touching and comments.” The investigation found that two other women had made similar complaints about Dr. Heaps in 2014 and 2015.
The university told Heaps in April 2018 that he would not be reappointed but didn’t report his conduct to the medical board until June 2018. They then filed a second report in March 2019.
The victims are upset over how the investigation was handled and that Heaps was given bail. Attorney Darren Kavinoky represents one of the victims and told the LA Times “On behalf of our clients, it feels offensive frankly, and it’s like revictimizing the victims,” Kavinoky said. “We wish we would have been heard on that point.”
4. His Case Is Being Investigated by Law Firm Hagens Berman
Law Firm Hagens Berman is investigating UCLA for how it handled the accusations and subsequent investigation into Dr. Heaps alleged sexual misconduct. The law firm handled the eerily similar high profile case of Gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall at USC. Tyndall was accused of sexual misconduct by hundreds of patients and USC agreed to pay $215 million to 500 patients in order to settle a class action lawsuit.
“These claims against UCLA are nothing short of alarming, and yet the university waited years before it began its investigation into complaints it received as far back as 2014,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, “We intend to fully investigate UCLA for its handling of this gross sexual misconduct, and we expect that more and more patients will step forward, as was the case with USC and Dr. George Tyndall. There is strength in numbers.”
5. He Received Positive Reviews from Most of His Former Patients
James Mason Heaps received mostly good reviews on several websites for his performance as a doctor. According to health.usnews.com, Dr. Heaps received 28 total reviews and is rated as “very positive” overall. He was rated “excellent” by patients for the “thoroughness of his examination”. He is rated 4 out of 5 stars on Yelp and many of the 1-star reviews are coming from people who saw his name in the news.