Columbia University agrees to notify Robert Hadden’s patients about sex abuse ahead of looming lawsuit deadline
Columbia University agrees to notify Robert Hadden’s patients about sex abuse ahead of looming lawsuit deadline

After years of delay, Columbia University has agreed to let thousands of ex-gynecologist Robert Hadden’s patients know about the serial sex abuse he committed — but their announcement leaves the disgraced doctor’s patients scant time to file a lawsuit before a looming state deadline.

On Monday, the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the university said it would send a “direct notice” to nearly 6,500 of his patients, and announced several other measures the institution will take in the wake of Hadden’s conviction in January on federal charges.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center officials said letters will be sent out within the next 72 hours, but the clock is ticking on when potential victims can file a state lawsuit. The one-year window to file sexual abuse claims despite the statute of limitation under the Adult Survivors Act closes on Nov. 23.

In a written statement Monday, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik and CUIMC Chief Executive Officer Katrina Armstrong said,“Columbia failed these survivors, and for that we are deeply sorry. This announcement aims to ensure we are on a path that repairs harm and prevents further trauma — moving us forward and rebuilding the trust of our entire community.”

Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News

Columbia University campus. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

Columbia has also announced it will create a $100 million settlement fund, overseen by Simone Lelchuk, a lawyer who was also appointed to oversee a fund for multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s victims.

Columbia officials did not immediately offer specifics on whether victims must agree to conditions such as a non-disclosure agreement to access that fund.

Lelchuk will “work to establish the fund protocols” and that it will open in January and stay open for at least a year, “providing a pathway for survivors to receive resources without needing to retain a lawyer,” according to Columbia’s announcement.

Evidence in Hadden’s case showed that a patient reported him to Columbia administrators in 1994, early into his 25-year tenure, after at least two nurses had witnessed his abuse — but his higher-ups never followed up, and he remained employed for another 18 years.

Hadden was arrested in 2012 when a patient called 911 to report he sexually assaulted her during an exam,  but he was at work a week later, according to the allegations in his federal case. He was fired in 2013, and former Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance launched an investigation after the arrest, charging him in 2014 with the sexual abuse of six patients.

But in 2016, the D.A. offered Hadden the chance to plead guilty to assaulting just two women without serving jail time.

Sexual Misconduct Doctor Charged

Sexual assault victims share smiles Tuesday as they gather for a group photograph outside Manhattan Federal Court after the sentencing of gynecologist Robert Hadden on sex assault charges. Hadden, 64, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

John Minchillo/AP

Sexual assault victims share smiles as they gather for a group photograph outside Manhattan Federal Court after the sentencing of gynecologist Robert Hadden on sex assault charges. (John Minchillo/AP)

Hadden was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in July.

The state Department of Health in 2016 issued an order to alert Hadden’s patients to the loss of his medical license and subsequent criminal conviction, but they refused to do so for several years, according to an attorney for several of his accusers.

Columbia officials also said they’re starting a third-party investigation run by veteran former federal prosecutor Joan Loughnane, establishing a website for Hadden’s survivors, and launching a center for patient safety at CUIMC.

John Annese

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