Dr. Melvin Levine apparently committed suicide on Friday, the same day that a class-action suit was brought against him by Carmen Durso. Durso, some may remember, was the lawyer who became famous for bringing the first suit by Boston-area victims of pedophilia against the Catholic Church. That story, first reported in the Boston Globe, ultimately influenced victims around the world to come forward.
“Word of Levine’s death came one day after about 40 of his former patients filed a medical malpractice and sexual abuse suit against him,” reported The New York Times. While a doctor at Children’s Hospital Boston from 1966 to 1985, Levine allegedly “stroked, massaged, and manipulated the genitals of his patients in a manner which was not medically necessary.” The former patients, all now adults, were between the ages of 4 and 17 when abused, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status and unspecified damages for pain and suffering.
Dr. Levine was Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill and the Director of the University’s Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. He’s also the co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit Institute for the study of differences in learning; and co-chairs the Institute’s Board of Directors with Charles R. Schwab. He is the author of A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness, and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes.
Charges of pedophilia initially emerged in 2008, but Dr. Levine and his organizations, including Children’s Hospital in Boston, denied all wrongdoing.
We asked a source—one of the very first victims to step forward in the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, who prefers to remain anonymous—what he thought about the timing of Dr. Levine’s death and the class-action suit. “Pedophiles rarely commit suicide for the same reason they don’t respond well to therapy,” he told us. “They don’t think they did anything wrong.”
“I always tell people that from the moment a kid gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, the central mission of the day is to avoid humiliation at all costs,” Dr. Levine wrote on the home page of his website.
He appeared repeatedly on The Oprah Winfrey Show, most recently in 2006, when he offered some good ideas for parents and educators to help children learn better:
- Be realistic; don’t aim to educate a “well-rounded child.” Expecting children to be good at everything puts unhealthy pressure on them. “No adult can do this,” Levine has argued, “so we shouldn’t expect it for our children.”
- Figure out what strengths your child has and develop those strengths. Every child has a different learning style.
- Build them up with success. “Success is like a vitamin,” Dr. Levine has said. “If you don’t get enough of it growing up, you’ll suffer a very severe deficiency that could have long-term impacts in your life.”
- Pay attention to those areas in which your child may have problems, such as sound differentiating, lapses in motor skills, or information processing.
He also appeared on The Today Show in 2008 to talk about why kids are having more trouble becoming independent.
When charges first emerged against Dr. Levine, Carmen Durso approached The Oprah Winfrey Show, according to our source, a close friend of the attorney. The same source told us, “[Durso] was told Oprah had no interest in hearing further from him on the topic of Dr. Levine.”
Why would Oprah invite James Frey on her show a second time after his book A Million Little Pieces turned out to be a lie, but remain quiet when charges emerged that demonstrated that an expert on childhood development, whose credibility she had a hand in solidifying, was accused of molesting the very children he was supposed to be helping? I would have hoped Oprah would want to address the issue directly on behalf of her audience and the children who may have been harmed. I hope Oprah has the guts to address this issue now after the events of the last week.