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December 8, 2015

Boston Globe: Gynecologist allegedly assaulted five patients before facing consequences

Daily Briefing

More than a dozen individuals in positions of authority were told over the course of 30 years about allegations of sexual assault against a Massachusetts gynecologist, but the response "to nearly every complaint was minimal or passive," Liz Kowalczyk and Patricia Wen report for the Boston Globe.

The allegations against Roger Hardy dated from his days as an undergraduate at Princeton University in the 1970s to 2014, when Hardy surrendered his medical license following pressure from the state medical board. Hardy has said he is innocent, and that some of the allegations were the result of misunderstandings or competitors attempting to target him.

In all, Kowalczyk and Wen report that at least nine women accused Hardy of sexual assault. Four women said he assaulted them during his time at Princeton, and a friend of one of the women reported one of the alleged assaults to campus administrators. However, there is no official record the women decided to talk with university officials about the allegations.

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But two of the women did tell a friend who went on to become a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital—who saw Hardy's photo among a group of new medical fellows in 1992. The doctor spoke with Kenneth Ryan, the hospital's chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology, and told him about the allegations against Hardy, and that she was uncomfortable with him being at Brigham, according to hospital records shared with the Globe.

Ryan spoke with two Princeton deans who said they did not have a disciplinary record on Hardy. A new department chair two years later also concluded nothing could be done given the lack of evidence.

Private practice

Hardy went on to go into private practice at the Fertility Centers of New England. He also sometimes practiced medicine at a Wellesley, Massachusetts, gynecology practice, where Hardy in 1999 allegedly rubbed a patient's clitoris, telling her it was to get her "uterus to contract."

The patient asked her gynecologist about the incident, who said he would not ever perform such an exam. The gynecologist "apparently did not report Hardy to the state medical board," the Globe reports.

Around the same time, a nurse anesthetist and a surgical technician at Fertility Centers both saw Hardy rubbing a patient's nipple, according to statements they made to the medical board last year. The employees said they told the practice owner, Vito Cardone, about the incident. Cardone allegedly had them go to a clinic manager, who told the nurse that she should not "cause a stink or blow a whistle, otherwise she would be labeled as a disgruntled worker."

The nurse says she made an anonymous report about Hardy to the Board of Registration in Medicine, although the board told the Globe it did not have a record of the call.

Cardone told state investigators that Hardy said he was attempting to calm the patient, and that an internal investigation concluded "staff didn't support the allegation." Last year, the board cited Cardone for not reporting the alleged incident—under state rules, providers must report to the board if they have "a reasonable basis to believe" a doctor engaged in sexual misconduct. Cardone is contesting the disciplinary action.

According to state records, months later two other employees informed the board they saw Hardy rub another sedated patient's nipple.

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In 2003, a patient who had a hysteroscopy done by Hardy at Beverly Hospital observed that her clitoral area was swollen. A few months later, on the advice of doctor and a psychologist who had heard about allegations of misconduct against Hardy, the patient filed a formal complaint with the medical board over alleged "excessive trauma to genitalia" by Hardy.

The hospital and the board investigated the incident. The board later closed the complaint and did not discipline Hardy, but did add the complaint to his permanent record.

The fifth patient allegation

In 2013, physician Janis Fox reported Hardy to the board after a former patient alleged that Hardy in two visits in 2011 stimulated her after implying that having orgasms would increase her chance of getting pregnant. Shortly thereafter, the patient spoke with the board, which then interviewed 17 people—including current and former colleagues of Hardy, Princeton classmates, and the woman who filed the 2003 complaint.

Hardy at first objected to the board's request for him to voluntarily agree to not practice medicine. Four days later, and one day before an emergency hearing on his case, he signed a voluntary agreement after the board told him it might suspend his license and showed him a letter with a long witness list.

The 2011 patient has sued Fertility Centers of New England and Hardy could still face criminal prosecution. Hardy declined to speak to the Globe for its story (Kowalczyk/Wen, Boston Globe, 12/6).

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