Former Hopkins gynecologist Dr. Nikita A. Levy committed suicide at his Towson home on Monday, leaving behind a wife, a son and an impending investigation prompted by reports stating that he had secretly videotaped and photographed his patients during gynecological examinations.
Levy’s employment was terminated earlier this month, four days after a colleague informed Hopkins officials of Levy’s alleged deviance on Feb. 4.
It took only a day for the University to conclude that Levy, 54, had captured images and videos of his patients, in some cases using a hidden camera installed in a pen. The exact magnitude of the crime remains unclear; more than 300 women have thus far filed reports with law enforcement officials, citing concerns that Levy had secretly documented their appointments with him. Levy, who had worked for Hopkins since 1988, saw more than 1000 patients during his tenure.
The University contacted Baltimore City Police immediately after the discovery, according to a statement from Johns Hopkins Medicine, which also broke the news of Levy’s suicide.
“Dr. Levy’s behavior violates Johns Hopkins code of conduct and privacy policies and is against everything for which Johns Hopkins Medicine stands,” the statement, which was released Monday, reads.
“We continue to work closely with law enforcement officials and will assist them in any way possible. Apart from a few individuals who have been notified, we are not aware at this time of the identities of any other people who may have been photographed by Dr. Levy. We are continuing to investigate.”
Levy killed himself on Monday morning in the basement of his home by placing a plastic bag over his head and filling it with helium. Within a day of his death and the release of the Hospital’s statement, around 100 of Levy’s former patients contacted Baltimore City Police, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In addition to the ongoing criminal investigation, the Hopkins Medicine Board of Trustees has spearheaded the University’s continued inquiry into the case, meanwhile facing the possibility that authorities will hold Hopkins Hospital liable for failing to protect the privacy of its patients.
This would not be unprecedented. In April, St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn. reached a settlement of about $50 million after the hospital’s chief of endocrinology took lewd photographs of 150 children under the guise of medical research, according to The Baltimore Sun.
In the meantime, Hopkins Hospital officials have opened a hotline for Levy’s patients via the hospital’s 24-hour call center.
“Johns Hopkins is providing counseling for any of the doctor’s patients, as well as offering appointments with other gynecologists,” a telephone operator at Hopkins Hospital’s call center, who declined to give his name, said last night.
At present, both the police and University face unanswered questions. Authorities remain unsure whether or not any of Levy’s victims were underage, or if he proliferated the photographs and video recordings.
Data on the various hard drives and computers seized from Levy’s home could further complicate the imminent legal process. Officials have kept many details of the investigation confidential; as information emerges, it will become clearer whether or not Hopkins is legally culpable.
Hopkins students expressed a range of sentiments regarding Levy’s crimes and their broader implications for the University.
“I have a male doctor back home, which doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a male gynecologist, especially after this,” sophomore Annabel Barnicke said. “If Hopkins Hospital knew about the incidents prior to the official investigation, then yes, the Hospital should be liable. Otherwise, it isn’t their fault for one individual’s actions.”
Levy, who graduated from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, is survived by his wife Sandra — to whom he addressed his suicide note, saying he did not want to “see [her] suffer with the truth,” according to The Baltimore Sun.