Despite numerous complaints of inappropriate behavior, Dr. Stanley Patrick Weber worked for decades at federal Indian Health Service (HIS) hospitals, mainly in Montana and South Dakota. The government agreed to pay $14.5 million to eight sexual abuse victims, each receiving between $1.5 and $2 million.
Many red flags
At first, local IHS Officials overlooked Weber’s peculiar behavior after he arrived in Browning, Montana, in 1992 because the hospital was desperate for a pediatrician. After three years, they tried to remove him from the government-run hospital after learning that some of the doctor’s child patients had stayed at his home. Similar to how other organizations like the Catholic Church dealt with the problem, the known pedophile was moved to a new location where they continued to work with minors. In Weber’s case, he was reassigned to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He treated children for another 21 years while there, leaving a trail of sexual-assault allegations involving young boys in his wake.
Law requires those running IHS facilities that serve 2.6 million Native Americans to report any allegations to law enforcement and social workers for investigation. But unfortunately, Weber is not an isolated problem, with similar reports of sexual abuse of minors taking place on other Indian reservations.
Investigation and documentary finally raise the alarm
Despite system-wide problems, Weber’s behavior stood out, and he was the subject of a 2019 documentary by PBS Frontline and The Wall Street Journal. Their investigation highlighted how IHS tried to silence whistleblowers and allow Weber to continue treating children despite the suspicions and complaints. The reasons for cover-up included on-site managers believing the danger of retaliation if they followed up on complaints.
This tolerance of egregious behavior did nothing to discourage the federal government’s broader reputation for providing substandard medical care to Native Americans. Moreover, an internal investigation after the documentary revealed that IHS staff at all levels were aware of the doctor’s behavior and tried to suppress the findings.
Now 73, Weber was convicted of abusing six victims who are also part of the eight plaintiffs to receive the new settlement. He serves a life sentence in federal prison.