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Doctors Behaving Badly: Warned about doctor's dungeon, hospital shrugged

Doctors Behaving Badly: Warned about doctor's dungeon, hospital shrugged

Picture of William Heisel

One would think the Dr. Earl Bradley horror show could not get worse.

The Delaware pediatrician was indicted in February on charges he brutally molested more than 100 children in a toy-filled basement.

Then Chris Barrish at the Delaware News Journal showed how even a story this bad could get uglier:

After four months of revealing little of what they knew about pediatrician Earl B. Bradley, accused of sexually abusing patients for years, administrators at Beebe Medical Center now say they investigated a 1996 report that he inappropriately touched young girls. Hospital officials cleared Bradley of misconduct after reviewing the complaint by a nurse who worked with Bradley at his Beebe office. The incident was never reported to Delaware's medical disciplinary board. Police and prosecutors did not learn about the hospital's investigation of Bradley until after they charged him recently with rape and sexual abuse of 103 patients during examinations or visits to an outbuilding at his office near Lewes.

If all of these allegations are true – and prosecutors say they have Bradley on videotape proving them – then this monster could have been stopped a decade and a half ago. But the hospital, where Bradley served as chief of pediatrics for four years, not only did very little in assessing the merits of the allegations against Bradley, it also kept its review completely secret.

As Barrish notes, the hospital initially misled the public and investigators when Bradley was arrested in December. Hospital officials said that Bradley had been a popular physician and that there had been no complaints about him.

And even when the Milford Police Department in Connecticut started investigating a new round of complaints, the hospital did not provide any information, "despite receiving a subpoena in the Milford case seeking any complaints and disciplinary actions against Bradley."

So why is the hospital fessing up now? The hospital purports to lay out all the details of its history with Bradley in this letter to the community where they promise to form a "blue ribbon commission" to look into the matter. Barrish writes:

The admission of the 1996 investigation comes as the hospital prepares to defend itself against at least 18 lawsuits from families of Bradley's alleged victims. Beebe officials said they fear the lawsuits could force the hospital into bankruptcy.

Final question: What are residents of Delaware told about doctors like Bradley when they visit the Delaware Board of Medical Practices Web site? Next to nothing. Bradley's license has been revoked, we learn, but the reason why is left unsaid. The same is true for every doctor in the hospital's database, including all the doctors who have been disciplined but continue to practice. We're not talking about very many doctors, either. The board has put 47 years worth of disciplinary history on 16 pages.

Related posts:

Doctors Behaving Badly: Toys in the pediatrician's basement didn't make it less of a dungeon

Comments

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William -

Excellent review of this blight on health care, as always.

Thank you for fighting the good fight. See you at the next round-table.

 

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The hospital received a complaint from a nurse about the practice he used to acquire urine samples. That is why they used EXTERNAL peer review to examine his techniques and the outside experts determined that he was using "best practices". The inappropriate touching the nurse claimed had to do with the fact that he was using catheters, requiring insertion into the gentalia, to collect his samples.

Furthermore, when the hospital received the subpeona in 2005, they had no idea why. They asked for clarification, but never received it and the matter was later dropped; without the hospital ever knowing the details of the allegations.

Also, you might want to do some fact checking as the Milford Police Department you mentioned was in Delaware, not Connecticut.

I am working on a lengthy paper about this case for a class so I have done extensive research. I think this was a tragic case that could have happened anywhere. Bradley affected people throughout the area including the children of some of the hospital's own employees, medical staff, board of directors and executive staff. Do you really think that, if they knew this was going on they would have covered it up? What would they have to gain? Bradley was not an employee, he owned his own practice and the abuse occurred in HIS office. Yes, he had priveliges at the hospital, but the hospital does not have the legal authority to examine his private practice or his home, so the only means of evaluating a doctor is through their education, work history, references, background checks, etc. (all of which the hospital performed on a regular basis). I think the important thing is that the hospital, despite the fact that they didn't really do anything wrong, is taking responsiblity and ensuring that the victims in this case get some type of monetary reward to help them in the future. Ideally, Bradley would assume this burden, but since he has no money left to his name, the hospital with it's deep pockets is left to foot the bill.

This is a sad case all around and one that taught people and health care facilities to be more cautious in the future.

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