‘Just a piece of meat on the exam table’: Dozens of women say Provo OB-GYN sexually assaulted them

There now are 50 former patients suing Dr. David H. Broadbent, claiming he hurt them over the past four decades.

(Rachel Rydalch | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Fourth District Courthouse in Provo, Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Dozens of women are suing a Provo OB-GYN who they say inappropriately touched them when he was their doctor.

Dozens more women have come forward in a lawsuit filed against a Provo OB-GYN who they say sexually assaulted them while he was their doctor.

One woman said she “felt like she was not in control of her own body — that she was just a piece of meat on the exam table,” according to an amended complaint filed this month in 4th District Court. Another woman, who was nervous about getting a Pap test, remembers asking Dr. David H. Broadbent “to wait a minute so she could relax her body.”

“Broadbent chuckled and said, ‘Oh, you need a minute to get ready to get assaulted?’” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit was first filed in February by four women, identified in court documents as Jane Does with their initials, who claim that Broadbent performed exams on them that were not “medically necessary,” but instead, they argue, was done “for no other reason than his own sexual gratification.”

One of those women talked about her experience on a podcast in December, and the other three reached out after hearing about her allegations. News of their lawsuit has spread, and now 46 other Jane Does — who say they were Broadbent’s patients between 1979 to 2021 — have been added to the case. All of the women are being represented by attorneys from the Salt Lake City firm Gross & Rooney.

“There is something incredibly powerful about all these women standing together to say, ‘Me too,’” Jane Doe S.P., one of the original plaintiffs, recently told The Salt Lake Tribune in an email. “I’ve cried many tears thinking about the women who could have been spared had I recognized the [alleged] abuse for what it was and spoken out sooner.”

David C. Epperson, Broadbent’s attorney, told The Tribune, “Dr. Broadbent categorically denies all of the allegations of wrongdoing that are asserted in this lawsuit. Medical ethics prevent Dr. Broadbent from saying anything more, but he believes that time will prove that the charges in this lawsuit have no basis.”

The amended complaint, filed March 14, also alleges that Intermountain Healthcare, Utah Valley Hospital, MountainStar Healthcare, and HCA Healthcare, “failed to stop [Broadbent] despite complaints against him.”

“Dr. Broadbent is an independent physician and has never been an employee of Utah Valley Hospital,” spokesperson Lance Madigan said in a statement. “When the hospital learned of this lawsuit, Dr. Broadbent’s privileges to deliver babies or provide any other services at the hospital were immediately suspended. We take these allegations very seriously and are committed to ensure the safety of our patients.”

MountainStar Healthcare also previously told The Tribune that Broadbent “is not employed by any MountainStar hospital,” and “is not currently authorized to see patients at our facility.”

No disciplinary actions were listed Tuesday for Broadbent on Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing website. A government spokesperson said he could not confirm if the division had received any complaints against the doctor.

Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, told The Tribune Tuesday, “We do not have any cases pending or in the past against David H. Broadbent.” Provo police did not immediately respond to The Tribune Tuesday afternoon.

Broadbent’s office is located on University Avenue in Provo, the lawsuit states, close to “thousands of young women” at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University “with little or no prior experience with OB/GYN appointments — who had no understanding of what was ‘normal’ or medically necessary.”

Jane Doe S.P. said she worries that some college-age women “have been taught their whole lives to trust men in positions of authority more than they trust themselves.”

“When I walk into an OB-GYN’s office and put on a gown,” she said, “it doesn’t mean they have a right to do anything they want to my body. They still have to ask for consent.”

Feeling like ‘some sort of play thing’

Some of the Jane Does in the lawsuit started going to Broadbent when they were minors, while others say they went for “premarital exams.” Broadbent commented on their bodies and appearance, they said. While Jane Doe L.W. was unclothed and on the exam table, Broadbent “talked to her about losing weight,” the complaint states, “and then ‘jiggled’ her belly and said, ‘But I’d still whistle at you if you walked down the street.’”

In 2009, Jane Doe S.B., said she lost one of her twins early in her pregnancy. During an ultrasound, “Broadbent took a long time looking around on the ultrasound, then checked the chart, started laughing, and said, ‘I forgot that other one was a goner, that’s why I couldn’t find it,’” according to the lawsuit.

When she was 14 years old, Jane Doe C.W. found out she was pregnant in 1999. After delivering her baby, the complaint states, Broadbent told “her boyfriend that he did the ‘husband stitch’ for him while sewing her up.”

The Jane Does shared similar experiences in the lawsuit, alleging that Broadbent inappropriately touched their breasts, vaginas and rectums, causing pain, without warning or explanation. Some women said the doctor did not use a speculum during exams.

Jane Doe E.M. said she started going to Broadbent in 1997 when she was 17. Shortly after giving birth at Utah Valley Hospital that same year, “Broadbent smiled at Jane Doe E.M., and said ‘Look!’”

“That is when Jane Doe E.M. realized ... he started to push up with his hand from inside her and told her that this is where her baby just was,” the complaint states. E.M. “could see her stomach area going up and down,” making her “mortified and sick to her stomach,” according to the lawsuit.

E.M. was not the only woman who described experiencing this with Broadbent in the lawsuit, and she said she still “lives with the scars of that trauma to this day.”

“[E.M.] feels as though he treated her body like some sort of play thing,” the complaint states, “and wishes so much that she could have asked a nurse or someone for help or to told him to stop, but in that delivery room she felt like he was the king and she was just some ignorant teenager who had gotten pregnant.”

In 2008, Jane Doe B.H. went into early labor when she was 33 weeks pregnant, and she said she was “completely terrified of what would happen to her unborn baby.” While she was at Utah Valley Hospital, Broadbent “groped” her breasts while her husband and brother-in-law were there, according to the complaint.

The woman was terrified to see Broadbent again, so when a nurse came in her room, B.H. “could not keep things quiet any longer,” the complaint states. She told the nurse what happened “and asked her if any of it was normal. The nurse looked at her wide-eyed” and brought in a manager, who helped B.H. get a new doctor, the lawsuit states.

Later, when the hospital called B.H. about her bill, the complaint states, “she was still very upset and told them that ... Broadbent groped her breasts and [she] would pay it once she heard that things had been taken care of.”

“Utah Valley Hospital told her that she would need to take it up with Broadbent’s office because he was not the hospital’s employee and they were not responsible for his behavior,” according to the complaint.

After B.H. started working for Intermountain Healthcare in 2014, she learned that Broadbent still saw patients at Utah Valley Hospital. When B.H. told a hospital administrator and the chief medical officer about what she had experienced, the complaint states, she was told that Broadbent “was ‘disciplined’ for what he did to her and that he had to undergo mandatory ... sensitivity and aggression trainings.” After completing those, Broadbent “could go back to caring for patients,” according to the lawsuit.

What an OB-GYN should do

Many of the women in the lawsuit said they were afraid to question Broadbent. Jane Doe T.M. said she worried “about the care she and her baby would receive” if she complained because she “was essentially trapped” in her hospital room if Broadbent were to confront her about it, according to the complaint.

When Jane Doe C.C. questioned what Broadbent was doing when she was in his office in 2005, he said, ‘Just lay there and let me do my job,’” the lawsuit states.

It is the obligation of a physician to explain to patients what they are doing and why they are doing it, said Tiffany Weber an OB-GYN with University of Utah Health, told The Tribune. (A spokesperson said that Broadbent has never worked for University of Utah Health.)

“Like, we’re doing this to collect a pap smear, because you’re due for the pap smear for cervical cancer screening,” she said. “Or, because of the symptoms that you have today, I would recommend a pelvic exam.”

Weber said, “I always explain with a patient thoroughly what we’re going to do before we do it,” and allow the patient “to make decisions along the way and touch base to make sure everything’s going OK for them.”

“It is a sensitive topic, and it’s a sensitive exam for women,” she said, especially during their first visit, “so really establishing a relationship of trust with the provider, I think, is really important.”

Sometimes, women are afraid of having a pelvic exam, so they avoid going to an OB-GYN, Weber said. But it doesn’t have to be part of a routine exam, she said, unless a person needs a pap smear or they have a problem they are seeing the doctor about.

Some of the Jane Does in the lawsuit said that Broadbent put his fingers in their rectum, surprising them and causing pain.

There are reasons to do a rectal exam, but for just routine screenings, especially for young women, they don’t really have any reason that they need to have a rectal exam for most patients,” Weber said.

While the “onus” should not be put on patients, Weber said, a person also has a right to ask their doctor questions at any point. And it is “always reasonable,” she said, for a patient to want to meet their physician a few times before having an exam done, especially if they feel “uncomfortable” or unsafe. People can also bring someone with them for support.

Jane Doe C.C. said she brought her fiance and sister with her to her appointment with Broadbent in 2005. C.C., who was 19 years old and pregnant at the time, said that Broadbent yelled at her and her fiance “for being horrible parents for wanting to bring an unplanned child into this world without being good members of the church,” the lawsuit states, “and telling them they would be better off without the child.”

As Broadbent performed an exam, C.C. “felt the most excruciating pain, unlike she ever felt before or sensed in her entire life,” according to the complaint. Days later, she went to the hospital with “severe cramping and heavy bleeding,” where C.C. learned she had lost the baby, the lawsuit states.

“She never asked for that to happen,” according to the complaint. “She never asked Broadbent to sexually abuse her and then to do what she believes took the life of her child. ... She never asked for the pain, guilt and grief that came after the appointment.”

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.