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Over 200 women accuse Mass. doctor of sexual abuse, unnecessary exams

The doctor's lawyer said he will "not litigate this matter in the media, but he will defend his care as the case progresses through" the court system.
Over 200 women accuse Mass. doctor of sexual abuse, unnecessary exams
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 09, 2024

Trigger Warning: This story includes details of sexual abuse.

More than a decade ago, Kristin Fritz was struggling with pain in her spine and saw a rheumatologist recommended by her doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

The visit with Dr. Derrick Todd started normally for the 37-year-old New Hampshire woman. But as Todd progressed, he aggressively groped her breasts, she said, to the point that he "seemed to enjoy that a little too much."

Only last year, when contacted by the hospital about Todd, she realized a line had been crossed. And she was not alone.

"I feel so violated," she told The Associated Press. "I feel so ashamed of myself for not knowing better in the moment to do anything and to be like, yeah, this did feel wrong and I should tell somebody."

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify possible victims of sexual abuse, but Fritz allowed her name to be used. She is one of more than 200 women and several men who have joined a consolidated lawsuit against Todd in Massachusetts' Suffolk Superior Court.

The lawsuit, combining several filed last year, accuses Todd of performing unnecessary pelvic floor therapy, breast examinations, testicular examinations and rectal examinations on patients.

It alleges that Todd — a former rheumatologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital whose specialty involves treating inflammatory conditions of the muscles, joints and bones — began abusing patients in 2010. It also accused several dozen other defendants, including Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital and Charles River Medical Associates, of knowing about the abuse and failing to stop it.

"It's an extraordinary number of people who put their trust in Dr. Todd and who had that trust violated simply for his own personal, selfish gratification," said William Thompson of Lubin & Meyer, whose Boston-based firm represents most of the victims.

"The other thing that strikes me about this case is how could this have been going on at the hospital, at the practice group for so long without somebody recognizing ... that something suspicious was going on," he continued. "Yet, they allowed him to continue to do this week after week, month after month, year after year, to more and more victims."

SEE MORE: Government issues new guidelines for pelvic exam patient consent

A lawyer for Todd, Anthony Abeln, said his client would "not litigate this matter in the media, but he will defend his care as the case progresses through the Massachusetts Superior Court system."

In April 2023, Brigham and Women's received two anonymous complaints about Todd and launched an internal investigation. Todd was told he couldn't conduct sensitive exams without a chaperone. In June, he was placed on administrative leave, and then terminated a month later. The hospital said it also notified the Department of Public Health, the state Board of Registration in Medicine, law enforcement and his current and former patients.

In September, Todd reached a voluntary agreement with the Board of Registration in Medicine to stop practicing medicine anywhere in the country. No criminal charges have been filed against Todd but several former patients have been interviewed by law enforcement.

The Boston Globe reported last year Todd was under investigation by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the office said it would not comment on the case.

"We are deeply troubled by the upsetting allegations of harmful conduct committed by Dr. Todd," the hospital said in a statement. "We take our duty to care for our patients and keep them safe extremely seriously. We have, and always will, act decisively on any allegations of misconduct, as we did in this case."

The Charles River Medical Associates said it was never made aware of any complaints of "inappropriate conduct" by Todd and said it reached out to patients to report their concerns.

"We are deeply troubled and saddened by these disturbing allegations and recognize the courage it took for these patients to come forward," it said in a statement.

Thompson said victims ranged in age from teenagers to women in their 60s. The lawsuit alleged Todd would gain their confidence, go beyond treating their rheumatic diseases and become their only doctor while conducting invasive, unnecessary exams.

Among them was a 33-year-old Massachusetts woman who struggled to find a doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was thrilled Todd called to help her with symptoms of tingling and numbness in her arms and hands.

Over two years, Todd became her primary doctor and gynecologist and, the lawsuit said, the abuse intensified during her visits — including repeated vaginal exams. She said Todd would routinely comment on her body, ask her to strip naked and make sure she was unaccompanied during exams.

"It honestly impacted every single component of my life because it just occupies every part of myself from my self-confidence," said the woman, who reported Todd to the medical board after discussing his behavior with her gynecologist and realizing something was wrong.

Since learning there were many others and that Todd would no longer practice medicine, she said a weight "has been lifted off my chest" though she struggles to cope. "Even just thinking about work is super challenging," she said. "I'm really, really, really still struggling today, big time."

As for Fritz, she acknowledged the experience will stay with her for the rest of her life. But she takes solace in the fact that Todd is already paying a price for his actions.

"You were a trusted medical professional in a world-class facility. You abused and violated many, many, many patients. It's just not right," Fritz said of Todd. "For me, justice is him never being able to practice again. Him never being able to do this to women or any other patient that he had done this to."

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