Prosecutors in Johnstown say that nearly two decades ago, Pennsylvania state regulators were aware of evidence that prominent pediatrician Johnnie Barto sexually abused two small children during doctor visits. However, the doctor was permitted to keep his medical license. According to prosecutors, this allowed Barto to sexually abuse at least a dozen more young patients – all the way until his arrest in January 2018.
Barto is currently awaiting trial on charges that he sexually abused over 30 children. Many of these victims and their parents believe that the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine failed to stop Barto and is partially responsible for allowing him to continue abusing young children for decades. According to an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, many of these parents and victims also blame the police, prosecutors, and Barto’s colleagues.
Barto was arrested in January and charged with groping a 12-year-old girl during a doctor’s appointment several weeks before. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, believing that there more be more victims, put out a notice for others to come forward. Dozens of other victims did so, with allegations going all the way back to the 1980s.
Barto has been charged with more than 70 counts of child sexual assault for alleged pervasive abuse over a period of several decades. There are five separate cases against them, but prosecutors are considering combining all five cases into one.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent is a former Montgomery County sex crimes prosecutor who now practices as a hospital sexual abuse victim lawyer, helping survivors of sexual violence find justice through lawsuits. Here is Brian’s perspective on how the legal system can provide justice for survivors of sexual abuse by doctors:
Doctors are generally some of the most highly revered members of our communities. But unfortunately, sexual predators are often found in positions of trust. For decades, the medical community has also failed to properly handle allegations of sexual misconduct by doctors. According to a 2016 investigative report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there are over 1,000 cases of doctors keeping their medical licenses after being sanctioned for sexual misconduct.
When a doctor is accused of sexual abuse, the allegations must be taken seriously. If a state medical board fails to act on such allegations and allows a doctor accused of sexual misconduct to continue practicing, this can easily allow the doctor to continue abusing patients. In cases where a failure to properly respond to complaints of sexual misconduct or other forms of negligence allows sexual abuse to occur, the victims and their families may have grounds for a lawsuit.
If you or a loved one is a survivor of sexual abuse by a doctor or another medical professional, you can find justice for the trauma your family has suffered. You can learn more about your family’s legal options by speaking to an experienced sexual abuse survivors attorney.