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

Published on
May 12, 2010

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.

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