An Indian American physician was arrested Aug. 18 on charges of gross sexual imposition for allegedly groping the breasts of two teenagers during examinations.
Pediatric gastroenterologist Arun Aggarwal, who practiced at the Dayton Children’s Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment Aug. 31, which was conducted via video from Montgomery County, Ohio jail. He is being held on $500,000 bail, and has been ordered to surrender his passport.
Aggarwal was arrested when he flew from Cleveland, Ohio, to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., to catch a connecting flight to India. He was held at Loudon County Jail in Virginia without bail before being extradited back to Ohio.
Aggarwal has been charged with four felony counts of gross sexual imposition. He has told the Ohio State Medical Examiners Board that he touched the breasts of the girls as part of his examinations.
Allegations against the gastroenterologist began emerging four years ago. The first incident in December 2013 involved a 15-year-old patient who was being treated for a digestive tract problem.
The girl testified before the medical board that Aggarwal first touched her stomach after asking her mother to leave the room.
“And then he eventually just pulled my shirt up and was touching my breast,” she testified, as reported by the Dayton Daily News. “And at that time, I in my life, I had never had a breast exam, so I didn’t know what to expect or how that would even feel or what they would do, and I was just in shock,” the victim testified. Her mother reported the incident a month later, while asking for another doctor.
In November 2014, Aggarwal allegedly touched the breasts of an 18-year-old girl who was being treated for acid reflux. The patient testified that he squeezed her nipples and made her remove her bra unnecessarily, according to medical board records, as reported by the Dayton Daily News. The patient’s mother was in the room, but she told the board she could not see what was going on.
Aggarwal testified that – in both cases – touching the young women’s chests was necessary for proper examination. He said he pressed on the first patient’s sternum to check for chest pain, and examined a surgical scar on the chest of the second patient.
The parents of both patients declined to file charges, and an earlier investigation was dropped. But Montgomery County prosecutor Matt Heck told reporters he decided to re-open the case based on new evidence that came to light while the Medical Examiner’s Board was determining whether to revoke Aggarwal’s license to practice.
“When medical personnel commit crimes, especially sex crimes against children, under the guise of medical examination, it must be immediately reported to the police, and they must be held accountable,” he said, while announcing the charges against Aggarwal. “History shows that inaction and failure to report such activity can start a pattern of continuous inappropriate and illegal conduct.”
The Dayton Children’s Hospital issued a statement after Aggarwal was indicted. “We are deeply saddened by this situation and, as we have throughout the investigation, fully support the efforts of the officers and prosecutors in their thorough and intensive investigation.”
“The safety of our patients is our top priority. We want to assure parents that we will not tolerate any actions which could impact our quality of care or breach the trust placed in us by patients, parents and the community,” said the hospital, adding it had put in place new procedures to ensure children’s safety.