October 22, 2018

How Rockefeller University Hospital is handling allegations of sexual abuse by a prominent former physician

Daily Briefing

    Several patients have come forward to accuse Reginald Archibald, a former endocrinologist specializing in children's growth at Rockefeller University Hospital, of sexual abuse, Rockefeller University Hospital said in a statement Thursday, the New York Times reports.

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    About Archibald

    Archibald served as a physician, researcher, and professor at Rockefeller University Hospital from 1941 to 1946 and then again from 1948 to 1980. Archibald treated and studied children who were considered too small for their age. Parents would bring their children to Archibald out of concern that their children might be teased if they experienced puberty later than their peers. 

    Archibald hypothesized that administering hormones would stimulate puberty and promote growth in children. As such, Archibald would administer hormones, including testosterone, to his patients. He also would examine children's growth by comparing the growth of patients with that of their siblings to establish a control group.

    Archibald became professor emeritus at Rockefeller University Hospital in 1980, and he retained medical staff privileges at the hospital until 1982. He became a senior physician emeritus in 1987 and died in 2007.

    Archibald's former patients allege abuse

    Rockefeller University Hospital in early October released a statement saying the hospital had discovered that Archibald "engaged in certain inappropriate conduct during patient examinations," adding that it "deeply regret[s the] pain and suffering caused to any of ... Archibald's former patients."

    Rockefeller University Hospital said the hospital in 2004 notified the Office of Human Research Protections, the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct, and the Manhattan District Attorney of Archibald's alleged abuse after a former patient reported that Archibald had acted inappropriately during physical examination.

    Rockefeller University Hospital said the hospital in 2004 hired the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to investigate the allegations. For the investigation, Debevoise & Plimpton reviewed available information—including interviews with former administrators, faculty, patients, and staff—and two previous reports of alleged abuse from the 1990s, the hospital said.

    According to Rockefeller University Hospital, "Debevoise found certain allegations credible and determined that it was likely that some of … Archibald's behavior towar[d the] patient was inappropriate." In response to the investigation, the hospital in 2004 added new policies to further protect pediatric patients.

    According to Rockefeller University Hospital, another patient came forward in early 2018 with similar allegations. The hospital took the same steps, notifying federal and state authorities and requesting Debevoise further investigate Archibald's alleged misconduct. Rockefeller University Hospital said, "Based on its investigation, the law firm concluded that some of Dr. Archibald's behaviors involving these patients were inappropriate."

    The hospital said, "In response to these findings, … Archibald's emeritus status at the Hospital and University have been rescinded and references to him have been removed from the Hospital and University webpages."

    The hospital said a comprehensive investigation is underway to examine Archibald's behavior. The hospital said it contacted Archibald's former patients to share information regarding their interactions with Archibald.

    Since the hospital mailed the letters, many former patients have come forward to accuse Archibald of sexual misconduct. The hospital said it is setting up a Rockefeller Hospital Therapy Fund to help cover the cost of counseling services for Archibald's former patients who experienced sexual abuse.

    Details on the allegations

    The hospital did not provide details on the sexual misconduct, but the Times interviewed patients who said Archibald would ask them to undress when they were alone with him in the exam room and then would either masturbate the patients or ask them to masturbate. According to the Times, at least one patient alleged being raped. Other former patients alleged the physician would take photos of their penises with a Polaroid camera, the Times reports. At least two articles Archibald published contained photos of naked boys, the Times reports. According to the Times, the allegations suggest Archibald abused children ages 6 to 17 from the 1950s through 1970s.

    When asked by the Times when the hospital first learned about the sexual abuse allegations and why it had not contacted former patients sooner, a hospital spokesperson declined to comment, the Times reports (Marco et al., CNN, 10/19; Sullivan, NPR, 10/19; Goldbaum, New York Times, 10/18; Rockefeller University Hospital statement, 10/18).

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