Suicide Tries Tied to Alleged Sex Abuse

By Daniel P. Jones
Hartford Courant
December 19, 2007,0,4455463.story

A Vernon man said he started drinking and using drugs at age 12, and later tried to kill himself three times as the result of being sexually abused as a child by a prominent endocrinologist at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, according to a lawsuit filed in state court.

The plaintiff, now 42, is one of four more people — three men and a woman — who have filed civil suits alleging that Dr. George Reardon sexually abused them when they were children. Reardon died in 1998 at age 68.

The four lawsuits, all filed Tuesday at Superior Court in Hartford, bring the number of plaintiffs who claim the hospital was negligent in failing to prevent Reardon's alleged abuse to 34 — 29 men and five women.

The Vernon man, according to his lawsuit, blames his drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts on the sexual abuse he endured in the doctor's hospital office over several years from the mid-1970s until 1981.

According to the lawsuit, Reardon molested the boy — beginning when he was 12 — on 40 to 50 occasions and took as many as 1,000 provocative pictures of him in naked and degrading poses. The plaintiff alleges that several incidents of abuse occurred while he was hospitalized for juvenile diabetes. He was wheeled from the pediatric ward to Reardon's office and abused several times, according to the lawsuit.

Like other plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits in recent weeks, the man has had trouble holding jobs and having relationships — a life haunted by Reardon's alleged abuse, said his attorney, Susan K. Smith, who represents 12 of the 34 plaintiffs, and expects to file about a dozen more complaints.

"Some of these kids are like ghosts. You look at them and see the child that should have been," she said. "So many of these people are not living up to their potential."

Smith said the Vernon man's mother contacted hospital administrators in 2001 seeking financial help for counseling for her son's emotional problems. Smith said the mother was told that the hospital had no responsibility, and referred him to a nonprofit agency that could have helped only if he had no insurance, she said. The hospital also declined to help with the man's high deductibles for mental health treatment under his private insurance, Smith said.

"She was not looking for any kind of settlement other than help in being able to afford the psychiatric care," Smith said. "Now she would like to see him compensated for what she sees as a significant impact on his life."

Reardon, who practiced medicine at St. Francis for 30 years, was a prominent member of the hospital staff — rising to chief of endocrinology — until he resigned in 1993 in the face of allegations, dismissed by hospital officials as unsubstantiated, that he had sexually abused children who were his patients over four decades, starting in the 1950s.

Last month, West Hartford police announced that the current owner of Reardon's former Griswold Drive home had found 50,000 photographic slides and more than 100 movie reels of child pornography hidden behind false basement walls.

Since then, scores of people alleging that they were Reardon's victims have contacted West Hartford detectives. Dozens of them have sought legal counsel to file civil lawsuits against the hospital, saying it was negligent in failing to monitor Reardon's activities.

The state statute of limitations was extended several years ago to allow victims of childhood molestation to file civil lawsuits until age 48.

Another of Tuesday's plaintiffs alleges that Reardon took provocative pictures of him, then age 13, and at least two of his brothers in a "sexual tableau." Three of the brothers have filed lawsuits, and a fourth is expected to file a suit next week, Smith said.

Many of the alleged victims say Reardon lured them by telling them and their parents that he was conducting growth studies of children and that their participation would advance science and medicine. But instead of benefiting science, according to the plaintiffs and their lawyers, Reardon left a trail of broken lives.

The hospital's top lawyer said he hadn't seen the latest complaints and thus couldn't comment on the specific allegations. But the hospital has maintained previously that it didn't get specific allegations about Reardon's alleged misconduct until the early 1990s, when Reardon retired and state medical hearings began.

"St. Francis is appalled at the reports of what Dr. Reardon is said to have done," said Barry Feldman, the hospital's general counsel and senior vice president. "These reports are as disturbing to us as they are to everyone else."

Without commenting specifically on Reardon's case, Feldman said pedophiles generally are cunning in getting away with child abuse for long periods without anyone finding out.

St. Francis officials are still gathering and reviewing information about what happened when Reardon was at the hospital.

Contact Daniel P. Jones at


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