More than a dozen women are suing Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital over the alleged sexual abuse committed by a prominent obstetrician. In court documents, 17 women say Columbia University and New York Presbyterian have committed negligence and fraud by covering up the alleged sexual abuse of Robert Hadden.
In their New York sex abuse lawsuits, the 17 women claim that Columbia and New York Presbyterian became aware of the former obstetrician’s misconduct in the early 1990s, but chose not to address it. The women say that, during 1992 or 1993, a nurse walked in on Hadden as he was sexually abusing a patient, but that her report to a superior went nowhere and she was told to “keep quiet.”
In fact, the two institutions are accused of “actively and deliberately – and inexplicably – conceal[ing] Robert Hadden’s sexual abuse for decades,” while “continu[ing] to grant Robert Hadden unfettered access to vulnerable, unsuspecting, pregnant and non-pregnant female patients.” In total, at least 22 women have filed suit over the doctor’s alleged abuse.
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Robert Hadden is accused of myriad inappropriate activities, “including licking and digitally penetrating his patients’ vaginas without gloves, and fondling their breasts and anuses, all under the guise of performing medical examinations,” according to CBS News. According to legal documents, one of Hadden’s patients was a minor at the time.
He has been accused of misconduct by at least 35 women, 18 of whom had come before the recent lawsuit was filed. Hadden was charged and pleaded guilty on two criminal charges in 2016, including criminal sex act in the third degree and forcible touching. The criminal charges against him arose from the claims of two women.
Hadden was ordered to register as a sex offender and forced to surrender his medical license, but faced no prison time. Also, as a part of his plea agreement, his sex offender status was downgraded to the lowest level, meaning he is not even listed on New York State’s online sex offender registry.
In a press release reported by Insider, plaintiffs’ attorney Anthony DiPietro says Robert Hadden’s conduct was “typical” of a sexual predator. “He groomed patients and kept them off balance by making inappropriate comments about their bodies, sexual activities and partners. While peppering them with medically irrelevant questions, Hadden would find reasons to perform prolonged, medically unnecessary breast and vaginal examinations for the purposes of sexually exploiting and abusing them.”
All but one of the women who came forward has opted to remain anonymous. Marissa Hoechstetter is the lone plaintiff to allow her name to be published. In an interview with CBS News, she told reporters that her decision to step forward only came after years of struggling to deal with the medical treatment she received at New York Presbyterian during pregnancy. “It has deeply affected my life,” Hoechstetter said. “I did not go to doctors for a number of years. I have to think really carefully about who I’m going to see.”
Hoechstetter was treated by Hadden during pregnancy and throughout the year after she delivered her twins. In court filings, she accuses the doctor of first making inappropriate sexual statements, then performing “prolonged” unnecessary breast examinations.
“It’s really traumatic,” Hoechstetter says, noting that she remained blind to Hadden’s alleged mistreatment out of concern for her unborn children. “You are at, I’d say, one of the most vulnerable points of your life. I was scared. I was really nervous to have twins. I had a friend who lost twins, so every appointment I went, I just really wanted to hear that my babies are OK.” At one point, Hoechstetter says, Hadden told her she looked “like a pornstar.”
It was only after a postpartum visit in 2012, a year after giving birth, that she realized she had been mistreated by the former doctor. “From the start,” she says, “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.”
Considering the significant damage that Hadden’s misconduct has wreaked on her life, Hoechstetter isn’t happy about the cushy deal prosecutors cut with the doctor back in 2016. Again, despite allegedly abusing nearly 30 women, Hadden has not spent a day in jail. But the new lawsuit isn’t so much about Hadden as it is about Columbia University and New York Presbyterian. Like the other plaintiffs, she says that key employees at the two institutions were aware of Hadden’s inappropriate conduct, but did nothing.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, February 4, 2018. It was filed in New York Supreme Court, in Manhattan. The women have asked for unspecified monetary damages and for Hadden’s name to be removed from their children’s birth certificates.