Editor’s note: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.
Seventeen women, all but one of whom declined to be named, are suing Columbia University and affiliated hospitals. The women claim that the institutions “committed negligence and fraud as part of a ‘massive coverup’ of an obstetrician’s sexual abuse of patients for more than 20 years,” CBS News reported.
Doctor Robert Hadden, the physician in question, was prosecuted in 2016 and pled guilty to criminal sex act in the third degree and forcible touching. Although Hadden was not sentenced to jail time, he was forced to register as a sex offender and surrender his medical license. Now, the women coming forward claim that Columbia and its hospitals knew of Hadden’s abuses and covered them up.
“The allegations leading to Robert Hadden’s 2016 guilty plea and the accusations contained in this recent complaint are abhorrent,” the Columbia University Irving Medical Center said in its statement to CBS. It declined to comment on this litigation.
Anthony DiPietro, the lawyer representing the 17 women, told CBS that Hadden would not have been able to operate without Columbia’s negligence. “They haven’t taken any accountability for what happened,” he said. “This kind of predator needs an institution.”
The lawsuit accuses Columbia “medical chaperones, nurses, supervisors, administrators, doctors and other hospital personnel” of knowing that Hadden was abusing women and doing nothing to stop it. A nurse who reported abuse to her supervisor was instructed not to talk about the incident, the case alleges. The lawsuit also focuses on an incident in which a woman filed a complaint that led to Hadden being escorted out of the building by police and continued working after the incident. It further claims that Columbia has continued to provide Hadden with disability benefits.
Editor’s note: Graphic description of sexual assault follows.
Marissa Hoechstetter, the only woman to be named in the case, described her treatment at Hadden’s hands. She said he began with inappropriate questions, and eventually licked her. At that point, she knew she had to stop seeing him. Other women in the case said that Hadden used his tongue or ungloved fingers to probe inside them. One woman in the case was a minor at the time.
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