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Lawsuit accuses ex-Rockefeller University Hospital doctor of sexually abusing 80 children

A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses a former doctor at Rockefeller University Hospital in Manhattan of sexually abusing 80 children — mostly boys — over a four-decade span under the guise of treating them for growth disorders.

The lawsuit follows one filed last year by another 40 alleged victims against the late Dr. Reginald Archibald, whom a lawyer for the plaintiffs called the most prolific pedophile in New York State, if not U.S., history.

“It was at least hundreds, and perhaps thousands” of victims, said Jennifer Freeman, an attorney in the White Plains office of Marsh Law Firm, which is representing many of Archibald’s former patients, including some from Long Island. “I’m not aware of one person that’s done that.”

Rockefeller University did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last year, the university admitted the wrongdoing by Archibald dating back decades, apologized, and said it was trying to help the victims.

The lawsuit was filed under New York State’s Child Victims Act, which last August opened a one-year window to pursue lawsuits into decades-old cases of sexual abuse of children.

Archibald, a growth specialist, is accused of fondling and committing other abuse of the children under the guise of carrying out studies and treatment of children whose parents were concerned they were too short.

He would typically examine each child at least twice a year, meaning he had access to scores or more of patients every year.

The approximately 330-page lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, lays out details of the abuse, including alleged instances where nurses or other doctors witnessed the abuse — but did nothing. It notes a grand jury investigated Archibald in the early 1960s, and multiple complaints were made about him.

“For decades, defendant Rockefeller University, a world-renowned medical research institution, knew or should have known that one of its leading doctors, Dr. Reginald MacGregor Archibald … was sexually abusing Rockefeller’s child patients,” the lawsuit states.

“This sexual abuse, which spanned some forty years, consisted not only of photographing his child patients in sexually suggestive and lewd positions; insisting they remain naked and exposed for the entire purported ‘examination,’ ” but also masturbation of the children, rape and other lurid acts, the suit says.

Many of the children would sit on the doctor’s lap for much of the exam, naked, and without their parents present, the suit states.

The lawsuit describes how one child came running out of Archibald’s examination room once, crying and screaming for his parents.

One plaintiff from Long Island, Sandra Kotler, 68, said she kept memories of the abuse buried for decades, but now they have come back with the lawsuit. 

“I think it was a terrible thing that he did not just to myself but to other kids as well,” Kotler said. “Such a nasty thing for a man of his knowledge. He was a very smart man, and for him to do these things to kids is just horrendous.”

“I think it took way too long for” the truth to finally come out, she added. “It had to come out eventually anyway. I’m glad it did because it kind of gives me some closure. Maybe it will help other people to come forward.”

The plaintiffs are not asking for a specific amount of money, but want their day in court to tell a story they say has been buried for decades, Freeman said.

“There is never enough money that can compensate you for child sex abuse,” Freeman said. “It’s really about holding them accountable and protecting future kids.”

Rockefeller University employed Archibald as a doctor, researcher and professor for roughly four decades, from the early 1940s until 1980. During those years, the doctor studied thousands of children, most of them boys, according to advocates, attorneys and the university. He died in 2007.

In 2018, the university commissioned a law firm to investigate Archibald. Hundreds of his former patients participated.

The findings, summarized in a 27-page report released in spring 2019, concluded that Archibald, “taking advantage of his position as a trusted and respected physician and researcher, engaged in a widespread pattern of misconduct and sexually abused many children at the Hospital over the course of many years when offering patients medical care and treatment.”

In response, the university pledged to assist Archibald's victims. 

“Rockefeller University is committed to acting responsibly and working constructively with former patients of Dr. Archibald,” the school said in a statement last year. “We profoundly apologize to his patients who experienced pain and suffering as a result of his reprehensible conduct.”

The university said last year it had started a program to assist Archibald’s victims with counseling by offering to pay for weekly therapy sessions.

The lawsuit states that in the May 2019 report, “not only did Rockefeller admit that Dr. Archibald sexually abused many child patients at its hospital, but Rockefeller also admitted it had received numerous complaints about Dr. Archibald going back to the early 1960s."

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