prominent pediatrician accused of molesting patients

Dr. Melvin D. Levine was once one of the most prominent pediatricians in the country. He is the author of best-selling books on learning disabilities, and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In 2009, though, he surrendered his license to practice medicine after complaints about his conduct in South Carolina, where he currently lives.

Dr. Levine is now being sued for medical malpractice, stemming from accusations that he sexually molested boys in his care during his practice at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he was employed from 1966 to 1985. Children’s Hospital Boston is also a defendant in the lawsuit, brought by thirty adult plaintiffs who claim that Dr. Levine touched their genitals during examinations in ways that were sexual, and not medically justified. The lawsuit claims Children’s Hospital was negligent in its supervision of Dr. Levine.

Pennsylvania hospital negligence attorneys believe that regardless of the eventual conclusion about Dr. Levine’s conduct, there is an important point in this case about the duty of physicians and hospitals toward their patients. Many medical malpractice cases take a microscopic look at the actions of healthcare providers, examining every decision made by a medical professional in a specific situation. A medical malpractice claim can hinge on a split-second decision, and its entire validity can lie within the question of whether the actions that followed that brief moment met or failed to meet the standard duty of care due to a patient.

The point raised by this case is that in addition to the duty in the details, there is a more basic duty: that everyone who comes into contact with patients be worthy of the enormous trust placed in them. Regardless of a provider’s medical talent, every healthcare professional and every healthcare institution owes its patients a duty of basic decency and trustworthiness. A failure to meet this duty is just as great a failure as making a mistake that causes an injury. In many ways, it is worse. 

It is not typical for a medical malpractice suit to be brought on the grounds that the medical professional intentionally acted in a way that they knew would be harmful to the patient. That is the devastating difference in the accusations against Dr. Levine, and against Children’s Hospital Boston.

Dr. Levine denies the allegations of the lawsuit in the strongest terms possible, and Children’s Hospital Boston claims that there was only one complaint ever brought to its attention against Dr. Levine. The hospital found no inappropriate action by Dr. Levine in that situation, and a court dismissed a previous lawsuit based on that accusation.

The new lawsuit is in its early stages, and it is too soon to say what the conclusion may be about the actions of this doctor or this hospital. Regardless of the eventual outcome, this case is a reminder that, in addition to complex issues of procedural compliance and proper standards of care, medical malpractice claims can and do involve much more fundamental violations of patients’ rights and physicians’ ethical duties.

Source: Boston Herald “Suit claims abuse by ex-Children’s M.D.” 2/18/2011

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