IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Lawsuit accuses Chicago doctor of abusing more than 300 women over decades

A lawsuit filed against two Chicago hospitals on behalf of one woman claims many of Dr. Fabio Ortega’s accusers were sent to him because they are Latina and he spoke Spanish.
Get more newsLiveon

CHICAGO — A lawsuit against two top Chicago hospitals accuses an OB-GYN of sexually abusing more than 300 women, most of them Latina and Spanish speakers, and alleges that the hospitals ignored the women’s complaints.

The complaint is the latest chapter in the legal saga against Fabio Ortega, 77, who pleaded guilty in 2021 to sexually abusing two patients. The suit, filed on behalf of one woman, alleges staff members at NorthShore Medical Group and Swedish Covenant Hospital, now both operated by Endeavor Health, concealed complaints about the former doctor’s behavior for years leading up to his conviction and “knowingly gave him a platform to sexually abuse” hundreds more patients.

“Women reported. They reported again and again and again,” attorney Symone Shinton said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the suit. “They were told to question their very experiences as women. They were told that the very abuse that they complained about was medically necessary and normal.”

Fabio Ortega.
Fabio Ortega.Cook County Sheriff's Office

The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of a woman identified only as “Jane Doe 300,” described the alleged experiences of several unnamed patients dating as far back as 1989, saying Ortega performed “unnecessary pelvic exams” and asked “patients intrusive questions about their sex life.”

Stinar Gould Grieco & Hensley, the Chicago-based law firm representing the plaintiff, said it came to the number of more than 300 alleged victims after it put out legal ads about Ortega and received responses.

In the case of Jane Doe 300, who the suit stated saw Ortega twice in 2017 when she was 22 and pregnant, Ortega assaulted her “under the guise of performing ‘vaginal examinations.’”

She was one of Ortega’s last patients before he was arrested, according to the complaint. When Jane Doe 300’s husband asked why they were getting a new doctor in the middle of the pregnancy, NorthShore hospital’s employees repeatedly told them the doctor was simply “unavailable,” according to the suit.

The hospital “withheld its knowledge that Ortega was then the subject of a criminal investigation for sexually abusing his patients,” the suit adds.

In the case of another alleged victim, who the suit said was pregnant at the time, Ortega inserted “his fingers into her vagina, comparing his fingers to the size of her husband’s penis.”

And in the alleged case of a 40-year-old woman who was referred to Ortega after she experienced heavy bleeding, the lawsuit says Ortega used his fingers to stimulate her and “asked her questions including but not limited to, whether she was satisfied with her sex life and if she had anal sex.”

The lawsuit also described how patients allegedly reported abuse to unnamed nursing assistants and family doctors and, in one instance in 2004, to Chicago police. 

The Chicago Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November 2004, the suit said, Ortega “asked for a one-year leave of absence without explanation,” after which he allegedly resumed treating patients.

Most of Ortega’s alleged victims, the lawsuit says, were Latina and spoke little, if any, English. They were sent to him for treatment, attorneys said, because he spoke Spanish.

For a 48-year-old woman from Mexico who is one of the alleged victims anonymously quoted in the lawsuit, the case has resurrected painful memories she had buried years ago. 

NBC News does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, and the woman asked to remain anonymous because, she said, she has not told her two adult daughters about her experiences. She said she began seeing Ortega when she was an 18-year-old newlywed, pregnant with her first child.

She was angry, the woman said about the lawsuit. “Because [the hospitals] knew what was going on.”

Ortega was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two patients; he has since been released. Requests for comment from Ortega and attorneys who represented him in previous cases were not immediately returned.

Endeavor Health declined to comment on pending litigation or specific allegations but said its hospitals have “absolutely no tolerance for abuse of any kind.”

“We recognize the tremendous strength and courage it takes for survivors of abuse to come forward. We believe trust is earned, and we will always look for opportunities to demonstrate our commitment to the highest standards of safety and quality in our care,” it said in a statement. “We have enhanced and continue to improve and evolve our processes and policies to ensure we have an environment that supports reporting of threatened or actual abuse. Our policies require we investigate all allegations of abuse that are reported to us, take prompt action in all matters and fully cooperate with law enforcement.” 

Stinar Gould Grieco & Hensley also represented victims of former USA gymnastics doctor and convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar.

In this case, attorneys allege hospitals ignored complaints because patients were Latina and did not speak English.

“Sadly what’s commonly seen is that minority patients are silenced by health care providers when they raise concerns or issue complaints,” said Parker Stinar, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. Ortega “knew that these patients would trust his white coat.”

Stinar said Tuesday that while this first suit is filed on behalf of only one of more than 300 alleged victims, additional lawsuits are coming. He would not say how many or what amount in damages the firm would ultimately seek.

He added his team is not pursuing a class-action case because that tactic earns every plaintiff the same amount in damages.

“How could you say that Jane Doe One’s damages for sex abuse are the same as Jane Doe Two?” Stinar said. “Everyone experiences, at the time, physically, emotionally, and different lifelong traumas. They can’t be lumped together.”

NBC News, in its inquiries Tuesday, asked Endeavor Health whether either hospital attempted to alert Ortega’s patients when he was first charged in 2021 with sexually abusing two of them.

Endeavor Health did not respond to that query.

“The hospitals, I feel like they don’t care about us as Spanish or women or Latinas,” said the woman from Mexico who spoke to NBC News. “You teach your kids to be careful when they go out. You know, to walk alone, to go in a car with strangers. But how can you prevent this, tell them be afraid of your doctor?”