Legislators in Delaware swiftly passed a package of bills dubbed the “Bradley Bills” to toughen oversight of the state’s medical practitioners and those who monitor them. The laws were prompted by the recent case of Earl Bradley, a pediatrician who was charged with abusing his patients for years, some of them as young as three-years-old.
Earl Bradley operated an office out of Lewes, Delaware for years and allegedly abused nearly 130 young girls and a boy before a mother filed a complaint last year that prompted police to investigate. Bradley is now behind bars, but legislators were particularly concerned that he was able to operate for so long without any other medical staff or the hospital noticing or reporting the incidences. In fact, Bradley had already been investigated when he practiced in Philadelphia—more than ten years before he came to Delaware. Besides failing to heed this red flag, investigators are also checking into reports that the Beebe Medical Center, where Dr. Bradley worked as an on-call pediatrician, failed to follow up on complaints against him.
In an effort to prevent future child abuse in doctors’ offices in Delaware, the Bradley Bills require that doctors be fingerprinted every ten years to help with background checks. In addition, everyone applying for a medical license in Delaware will have to say whether they have been investigated in the past. Finally, every six months, the medical licensing board will check the criminal histories of every licensed doctor in the state. Lawmakers are also talking about another mandate required by the new law: children must be physically examined only when a chaperone is present. Hospitals are apparently working out individual policies that will take effect later this summer. It is particularly distressing that Dr. Bradley worked out of the Beebe Medical Center: since the hospital serves as the core of the Lewes, Delaware community, legislators are concerned that any action taken against the hospital will result in a devastating blow to their finances. Many employees and residents of Lewes rely on the hospital for their lifeblood, which is just another example of how one man’s actions affected an entire town.