Columbia University and its hospital, the NewYork-Presbyterian system, are being accused by 17 women for allowing a sexually abusive doctor to practice for 20 years.
The doctor referred to in the lawsuit, Robert Hadden, pleaded guilty in 2016 to forcibly touching and a criminal sex act in the third degree. He surrendered his medical license and received no jail time, according to court documents.
Columbia and the hospital allegedly have “repeatedly and actively concealed, conspired and enable the sexual exploitation and abuse being committed by defendant Robert Hadden,” the court file said.
Hadden worked as an obstetrician at medical facilities the plaintiffs were patients at. The women accused him of subjecting them to sexual abuse, including unnecessary vaginal and anal penetration, oftentimes without gloves.
The women are also suing to have Hadden’s name removed from their kids’ birth certificates, according to the NY Post.
Of the 17 defendants, 16 remained anonymous. They say Hadden would give them inappropriate breast examinations and ask them questions about their sexual partners, including whether they were being satisfied.
Marissa Hoechstetter was the only named plaintiff in the case. Hadden was her doctor during and after her pregnancy from 2009-2012. He allegedly made sexual comments to her during visits, and during one, exposed her breasts and said, “You look like a porn star.”
“From the start, there were inappropriate questions. There was a lot of touching. There were exams without nurses or other people in the room, and on the last occasion, when I knew that something happened, he licked me. And I knew that that happened and I never went back to the office again,” Hoechstetter said.
One of the plaintiffs, referred to as Jane Doe #16 in the file, claimed Hadden had her get on all fours during an exam and proceeded to “rub both of his ungloved hands up and down her body.”
A nurse who worked with Hadden at a clinic run by Columbia University in the early 1990s walked in on Hadden during an instance of sexual abuse. When she reported it, she was told to “keep quiet,” and “stay with your doctor.”
“This guy had no bottom,” said Anthony DiPietro, the accusers’ attorney. He says the goal of Tuesday’s suit was to hold larger institutions accountable.
“These super-predators can’t exist without the support of an institution around them,” DiPietro said.
Columbia University and its associated medical facilities, along with Hadden, were also involved in a civil suit in 2017 that is still ongoing. It was filed by four plaintiffs who accused Hadden of sexual abuse and the university of failing to protect their patients.
“The allegations leading to Robert Hadden’s 2016 guilty plea and the accusations contained in this recent complaint are abhorrent.,” Columbia University released in a statement. “Mr. Hadden has not practiced medicine at Columbia since 2012.”
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