Assemblymember Grace Lee, Elected Officials, Students, and Survivors Demand Columbia University Notify Robert Hadden’s Patients of his Criminal Conviction and Abuse

New York Assemblymember Grace Lee was joined today by New York state elected officials, Columbia University students, and survivors of former Columbia Medical Center obstetrician-gynecologist Robert Hadden to demand the university notify Hadden’s former patients of his criminal conviction before the Adult Survivors Act expires. They also called on Columbia to initiate an investigation into the university’s role in Hadden’s abuse.

“Columbia’s past handling of Robert Hadden’s case has shown us that the university will do anything to protect its reputation, even if it means endangering the health and safety of New Yorkers,” said Assemblymember Grace Lee. “For decades, Columbia failed to support Hadden’s victims, but now, newly appointed President Shafik has the opportunity to turn a new page for the university. As a Columbia graduate and an elected official, I am leading a call for President Shafik and Columbia to notify all of Hadden’s patients of his sexual abuse so that victims have the ability to seek justice, and to conduct an internal investigation to ensure this horrible pattern of abuse is never allowed to happen again.”

The call to action comes one day after more than 30 Assemblymembers signed on to a letter sent to Columbia University President Minouche Shafik insisting she take action. It is the first-time elected officials have intervened in the Hadden matter.

“Columbia’s inadequate response to Hadden’s crimes stands in stark contrast to other institutions that have faced similar scandals. The University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan all launched independent inquiries into the systemic failures that allowed sexual abuse to happen in their clinics,” the letter said. “There is no reason Columbia should not follow suit.”

Earlier this month, 301 more victims filed lawsuits against Columbia and Hadden for the physical and emotional abuse they suffered while under his care. The new complaints bring the total number of victims who have come forward to 538. The case now includes roughly the same number of survivors as the case against Michigan State University doctor, Larry Nassar. Hadden was federally indicted and convicted earlier this year on federal sex trafficking charges.

“We took an oath in which we swore to do everything in our power to protect our patients and to live up to the ideals of medicine. The actions of Robert Hadden and those involved in his protection amount to a desecration of that oath,” a Columbia Medical student said today, speaking on behalf of the medical school’s student body. “Seeing Columbia University and hospital’s responses, we are left questioning the values of the organizations that we belong to and their commitment to patients and their safety.”

Elected officials, survivors and students emphasize the urgency in alerting former patients, as the Adult Survivors Act is set to expire on November 23, 2023, one month from today. The Adult Survivors Act is a one-year look-back window that gives adult victims and survivors of sexual exploitation and abuse in New York the ability to file civil claims, regardless of how many years ago the abuse occurred.

"Tragically, Robert Hadden's victims, many unaware of their own abuse, remain in the shadows due to institutional neglect,” said Assemblymember Al Taylor. “Columbia University, in possession of the key to unlock these shadows, has a profound moral duty to inform and support. As other institutions have stepped forward, owning their oversights, so must Columbia. Their core ethos, 'In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen', challenges them to bring light to this darkness. It's not just an obligation, but a testament to their commitment to the community they serve."

“Today, we collectively demand that Columbia University does right by the countless patients they failed to protect for decades from predator Robert Hadden,” said Senator Gustavo Rivera. “The institution must inform them of their rights so they can seek the justice they deserve. I want to thank Assemblymember Grace Lee for organizing today’s rally and standing up for survivors.”

"It is imperative that the university takes immediate action to notify all former patients of Hadden and ensure they are provided with the support they need during this distressing time,” said Assemblymember Steven Raga. “Furthermore, to prevent such gross oversights in the future, a comprehensive and independent investigation into the university's systemic failures is urgently required. I stand firm with the survivors and my colleagues in demanding full accountability from Columbia University."

“It is an absolute tragedy that Robert Hadden was allowed to sexually violate his patients for decades and a clear sign of institutional failures and looking away,” said Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas. “But we cannot allow Columbia University or any institution and its employees to look away anymore, including medical professionals. It is well-documented that Hadden’s colleagues knew of some of the victims’ concerns so this must be addressed immediately. Columbia has a responsibility to inform his patients of his violations, and I thank Assemblywoman Grace Lee for her swift action. Next session, we must address these institutional gaps by passing my legislation with Senator Gustavo Rivera to strengthen protections for patients regarding sexual misconduct by medical providers. We need accountability now.”

“For far too long, Robert Hadden used his position of power to prey on and abuse hundreds of patients and evade the law,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “Now that he has been convicted, it is imperative that Columbia University notify former patients so they may seek legal justice against him before the deadline to file under the Adult Survivors Act expires. I join Assemblymember Lee and my colleagues in urging Columbia to conduct an independent investigation into the systemic failures that allowed this sexual abuse to occur.”