Nassar Abuse Fallout: MSU Agrees to Provide Chaperones During Sensitive Medical Exams

By Steven Porter

Healthcare providers affiliated with Michigan State University—including the medical practice MSU HealthTeam and the separate nonprofit MSU Health Care—will be required to make chaperones available for sensitive medical exams as part of a voluntary agreement with the Health and Human Services Officer for Civil Rights announced Monday.

The agreement comes after Larry Nassar, DO, who had been employed by MSU, used his position of trust to sexually abuse hundreds of young women and girls, including many Olympic gymnasts, over two decades. The agreement resolves a civil rights investigation that stemmed from the revelation of Nassar’s long-running abuse.

“While Nassar and the dean who oversaw him have been rightly convicted of crimes, the institutional reforms that MSU has agreed to undertake will help ensure that no patient is ever victimized like this again,” HHS OCR Director Roger Severino said in a statement.

The agreement stipulates that MSU HealthTeam’s chaperone policy will direct staff to always honor a patient’s request to have a support person, such as a parent, relative, or friend, present during sensitive exams or other treatment. In addition to allowing support persons, staff must provide an authorized healthcare team member to serve as a chaperone for all sensitive examinations of patients at least 10 years old, according to the agreement. The staff “shall accommodate, to the extent practicable, the Patient’s request for a same-sex chaperone,” the document states.

The resolution agreement also includes commitments that the MSU entities will do the following, according to the HHS OCR announcement:

  • Revise their nondiscrimination notices and sexual misconduct policies to clarify the sex discrimination prohibitions in Title IX and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act;
  • Improve processes for investigating and resolving sex discrimination complaints;
  • Designate a responsible official to coordinate acceptance, investigation, and resolution of such complaints; and
  • Conduct all-staff training, with biannual reports to HHS OCR, during the agreement’s three-year term.

The announcement also comes a day before the deadline to comment on HHS OCR’s controversial proposed rule reinterpreting the definition of sex discrimination in Section 1557 in a way that excludes gender identity from the list of protected categories, effectively reducing protections for transgender patients. The online commenting portal indicates that more than 115,300 comments had been received as of Sunday night. None of those comments have been published by HHS OCR.