Mel Levine, 71, a nationally renowned pediatrician accused of sexual misconduct with boy patients beginning in the 1960s, left a suicide note before he was found dead last week, as reported by the News-Observer (N.C.).
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office responded to Levine’s home in Rougemont after a call from his wife just after midnight Friday. The sheriff’s report does not list a cause of death or tell where Levine’s body was found but says his wife had last seen him Feb. 12.
The state medical examiner’s office is investigating Levine’s death. Law enforcement agencies can ask the medical examiner, based at UNC-Chapel Hill, to examine the body of anyone who dies suddenly or unexpectedly.
Barbara Levine found the note Thursday night, according to the sheriff’s report, the same day 30 former patients filed a class-action lawsuit against Levine in Massachusetts. He is accused of unnecessarily examining the genitals of young male patients since the 1960s in Massachusetts and North Carolina. In 2009, he agreed to cease practicing medicine but denied the claims against him.
The lawyer who represents the plaintiffs in Massachusetts, Carmen Durso, plans to aim the suit at Levine’s estate and will seek a judge’s permission to solicit 5,000 male patients who saw Levine in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s to join the class-action suit.
Durso also plans to sue Boston Children’s Hospital on behalf of at least five patients at UNC-CH, where Levine moved three years before the first lawsuit against him surfaced in 1988. Durso said families complained about Levine’s alleged sexual abuse of their sons as early as 1967. Durso had previously sued Levine on behalf of five individual patients between 2005 and 2008.
“If Children’s Hospital had taken some action against Melvin Levine, he likely would not have been able to go to Chapel Hill and they would not have been abused,” Durso said.
Children’s Hospital released a statement saying it received only one complaint about Levine in 20 years there, a case that later went to court and was dismissed.
“His actions were found to be appropriate within the context of the child’s medical needs,” the statement said. “Children’s would not, and did not, cover up any inappropriate conduct relating to Dr. Levine. The fact of the matter is that except for the one complaint we investigated, no one alerted the hospital to any concerns regarding Dr. Levine.
“If the allegations of these former patients are true, we are devastated and our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the victims of Dr. Levine’s wrongdoing.”