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Doctor’s journal denies allegations

Entries include his suicide vow

WRITINGS RELEASED A lawsuit accused Dr. Melvin Levine of sexually abusing as many as 5,000 young boys during his career. WRITINGS RELEASED
A lawsuit accused Dr. Melvin Levine of sexually abusing as many as 5,000 young boys during his career.
By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / March 8, 2011

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A former Children’s Hospital Boston pediatrician who took his own life amid accusations he molested thousands of his pediatric patients was defiant to the end and maintained his innocence, according to a suicide note and personal journal released yesterday by the lawyer for his alleged victims.

Police documents provided to the Globe by Boston attorney Carmen L. Durso, who represents at least 40 former patients of Dr. Melvin D. Levine in a class-action lawsuit, show that Levine asserted his innocence, even as he planned his suicide.

“I continue to maintain that I did nothing that was wrong or immoral in my patient care throughout more than 40 years of practicing pediatrics,’’ the documents indicate Levine wrote in a Feb. 16 journal entry. “I am an innocent victim.’’

On Feb. 17, Durso filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court accusing Levine of medical malpractice and of sexually abusing as many as 5,000 young boys during his career.

The next day, Levine — a former chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Children’s, Rhodes scholar, and best-selling author who had appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show’’ — was found dead in the woods near his home in North Carolina. Authorities said in a police report that he shot himself in the forehead with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Though Levine had been accused multiple times of sexually abusing young male patients, he had never faced criminal charges or conviction stemming from the accusations.

In an interview yesterday, Durso said an associate attorney in North Carolina obtained the documents through a public records request. Durso, in turn, decided to make them public.

“As unfortunate as his suicide is, it certainly doesn’t change anything that’s happened to my clients,’’ Durso said. “The things that were done to these kids are still things that were done.’’

A spokesman for the Orange County, N.C., sheriff’s office did not return calls last night seeking to verify the documents.

“The tale is about to conclude,’’ the documents indicate Levine wrote in his journal on Feb. 11 after learning that Durso was planning to hold a press conference making the accusations public. “Mine has been a script impossible to sustain. I will shoot myself today, very soon.’’

The next entry came Feb. 14: “I am still alive if not well today, Monday, Valentine’s Day. I left my office on Friday, fully intending to terminate my existence that afternoon. Then I realized my 72-hour suicide rule (to avoid impulsive self-immolation).’’

Levine also talks about calling his lawyer, Edward Mahoney of Boston, asking about the timing of the press conference.

“I decided it might be especially apt to end my life just before that grandstand event,’’ the documents indicate Levine wrote.

In the same entry, Levine writes Mahoney “implied very strongly that there are very likely to be criminal charges stemming from the upcoming press conference. I could go to jail.’’

In a phone interview, Mahoney spoke about the documents’ release. “Mr. Durso’s decision to actively disseminate such private information is inappropriate,’’ Mahoney said in a phone interview. “Mr. Durso’s one-side press conferences were, as Dr. Levine wrote, ‘absurdly unjust.’ The one [civil] case decided by the courts resulted in a verdict in Dr. Levine’s favor. Dr. Levine denied any wrongdoing at every turn, and he denied any wrongdoing in his final note.’’

In his journal, Levine also takes a swing at the potential plaintiffs who had been, and could be, lining up against him, according to the documents.

“Obviously, following this press conference, there will be more people coming after me who knows, maybe another 30 or 100 or 150!’’ he wrote in the journal. “Virtually every adult who once had a physical exam performed by Mel Levine could decide to have been abused by it (especially if they’re low on funds).’’

The documents also included the text of a typed suicide note, printed in cursive style. Parts of the note, addressed to Levine’s wife, Barbara “Bambi’’ Levine, say:

“Bambi: I am so sorry. There were no alternatives. Please do what you can to remake your life into a better life. . . . I love you. I am sorry, very sorry. We are innocent victims, yet we are helpless. . . . I didn’t want you to try to prevent what absolutely had to happen. Fortunately, we possess endless terrific shared memories you can savor.’’

After leaving Children’s Hospital, Levine moved to North Carolina and continued seeing patients. In March 2009, he signed an agreement with the North Carolina Medical Board, saying he would never again practice medicine after allegations that Levine had performed improper genital exams on boys there.

Durso’s lawsuit also names Children’s Hospital Boston, saying it was negligent in failing to properly supervise Levine. Durso said yesterday that the lawsuit will continue to go after the hospital and now Levine’s estate.

David Abel of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com.