Columbia will set up fund for victims of doctor convicted of sex crimes, notify 6,500 patients

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University and a university-affiliated hospital announced Monday they will notify 6,500 former patients of disgraced gynecologist Robert Hadden of federal sex crimes that he was convicted of earlier this year.

Under the plan announced by Columbia and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, patients who were abused by Hadden over his decades-long career will be given the opportunity to apply for compensation from a $100 million settlement fund.

Victims can also sue under New York's Adult Survivors Act, but the one-year window to file lawsuits closes after Nov. 23.

Hadden was convicted in January of four counts of enticing victims to cross state lines so he could sexually abuse them. He was sentenced in July to 20 years in prison.

Hadden 65, pleaded guilty earlier to state charges, admitting that he had sexually abused patients.

Federal prosecutors said Hadden sexually abused patients from 1993 through at least 2012 while he was working at the Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

“We owe it to the courageous survivors and the entire Columbia community to fully reckon with Hadden’s abuses,” Columbia University President Minouche Shafik and Irving Medical Center CEO Dr. Katrina Armstrong said in a news release. “Columbia failed these survivors, and for that we are deeply sorry.”

Shafik and Armstrong said the multi-pronged plan to address the legacy of Hadden's abuse will include an independent investigation to examine the failures that allowed the abuse to continue and the establishment of a center for patient safety.

Hadden's accusers included Evelyn Yang, the wife of former presidential candidate and New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, who said Hadden abused her when she was pregnant with her first child.

Evelyn Yang, in a joint statement with accuser Marissa Hoechstetter, pressed the university to increase the amount of the settlement fund and to ensure that all of Hadden’s patients receive notifications before the Adult Survivor's Act deadline.

“Although we are pleased by the university’s plan to support survivors and investigate its own failures, we remain committed to ensuring they follow through on these promises,” the statement said.

University officials said direct notice will be sent to nearly 6,500 former Hadden patients to alert them to his conviction and sentence and to inform them of their right to sue or to seek compensation from the settlement fund.

The fund will open in January 2024 and stay open for at least a year, they said.

An attorney for Hadden accusers said the former patients were being encouraged to participate in a settlement process that he said was underfunded and designed without input from victims.

“I do not support this plan,” Anthony DiPietro said in an emailed statement, “because Columbia’s proposal allows the university, and its lawyers, to retain all the power to decide the value of each person’s claim. While our state and federal court systems may be imperfect, they remain the best method to fairly and justly adjudicate civil disputes."