An independent review of the sex abuse case involving Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley says there were “missed opportunities” to end Bradley’s alleged victimization of patients and offers a wide array of recommendations to avoid similar situations in the future.
An independent review of the sex abuse case involving Lewes pediatrician Earl Bradley says there were “missed opportunities” to end Bradley’s alleged victimization of patients and offers nearly 70 recommendations to avoid similar situations in the future.
The review was completed by Widener Law Dean Linda Ammons at the request of Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D).
“A mass tragedy of this magnitude may have been pre-empted if the individuals directly involved had been alert, less willing to give Bradley the benefit of the doubt, and if they had scrupulously followed the law,” Ammons concluded.
In the review’s summary, Ammons writes the aim of the report was not to “assess liability or culpability”, but concludes since 1994 “some allegations of sexual abuse and/or physician misconduct by Dr. Bradley have been known to state agencies, law enforcement, regulatory bodies, hospitals and/or licensed medical professionals.” Ammons adds that in some cases laws and policies in place designed to trigger a response “were not followed to the letter of the law.” Ammons also says human and mechanical error also prevented action from being taken in some cases.
Ammons specifically points to three instances, in 1996, 2004, and 2005, where failure to share information hindered building a criminal case against Bradley or calling into question his fitness to practice medicine. The report says more actions could have been taken on a letter written by Bradley’s sister in 2004. The report also says better communication could have been taken after the investigation of Bradley by Milford police in 2005. Police never charged Bradley with any crime. The report steers away from whether that conclusion was proper. It does say the Attorney’ General’s office should have reported their findings to Board of Medical Practice.
“The system tragically failed these children over several years. We need solutions – not excuses – and her report offers many recommendations that we will work with the General Assembly, Attorney General Beau Biden and others to make real,” Markell said.
Among Ammons recommendations are that the General Assembly consider whether a sexually violent or dangerous predatory statute, which requires civil commitment of those who are a threat to the public but cannot be successfully prosecuted, should be adopted and that legislators amend Delaware law to make it clear when and if law enforcement agencies are exempt from reporting to the medical board.
Ammons suggests the Department of Justice establish internal protocol to ensure deputies and staff report vital information to the requisite agencies about suspected abusers and evaluate whether deputy attorneys general are too risk-averse in taking hard cases.
Ammons reports also recommends the Board of Medical Practice open the board’s hearings to the public and communicate hearing outcomes through easily accessible public records and add public and other professional members to the board, now made up of medical experts, to enhance objectivity. She also suggests hospitals have consistent protocol guidelines as to how they will investigate, and keep records concerning all medical personnel if allegations of sexual exploitation are raised.
Ammons says many people she talked to thought he was odd. “They would- and these are their words and not mine- say that he was strange, he was weird, even disagreeable with some of his peers.” But Ammons says that opinion would not translate into their opinion of Bradley as a medical professional. “Almost in the same breath, they would say, ‘But he’s a great doctor.'” Ammons says that respect for his authority as a doctor may have led to certain warnings signs to be overlooked.
She says in this case and in other pedophilia cases, the accusations of children weren’t given enough weight. “We really as a society have to push past the strong tendency to not believe children when they talk about sexual exploitation,” Ammons says. She says while there could be some false accusations from children, “More likely than not from what the experts and researchers say, when a child talks about being sexually exploited and gives graphic descriptions of what happens, typically they are telling you the truth.” She says the parents and officials need to be more vigilant and alert. “I hope that this is a lesson for the nation.”