Pediatrician Named in Lawsuits Dies – Hartford Courant

A former pediatrician from New Britain who was accused of sexual misconduct in lawsuits filed by six former patients died over the weekend.

Robert Rackliffe was 92 and had been a pediatrician in the New Britain area for more than 50 years before retiring. He died in his home in Farmington surrounded by his family, according to an obituary. A World War II veteran, he also wrote an autobiographical book, “From Bombs to Babies,” which detailed how he went from an Air Force pilot to a doctor.

Last week, The Courant published a story about six lawsuits pending in Hartford and New Britain Superior Courts against Rackliffe by former patients who are now adults.

The lawsuits are similar in nature, alleging that the plaintiffs — three boys and three girls — were abused during physical examinations. The lawsuits allege digital anal penetration by Rackliffe and, in the cases involving the boys, that he fondled their genitals.

The lawsuits also allege that Rackliffe committed medical malpractice, although a judge has already dismissed that claim in the first two lawsuits because the statute of limitations has expired.

New Britain attorney William Sweeney, who was representing Rackliffe, told the Courant that Rackliffe had denied any wrongdoing.

“Nothing that is alleged in these complaints is anything other than a routine medical examination,” Sweeney said. “The issue here is whether a routine medical examination is a sexual assault.”

Court records indicate that Rackliffe has already been questioned on at least two of the pending lawsuits, and attorneys could use some of that testimony in his absence. The claims will now be lodged against his estate and remain pending.

In a court filing, Ryan McGuigan, the attorney for all six plaintiffs, quotes from a portion of Rackliffe’s deposition, indicating that Rackliffe denied ever doing rectal examinations on females but admitted he routinely did them on boys unless they were “uncomfortable.”

Rackliffe said the examinations usually lasted less than five minutes, according to court documents.

The allegations are from 1972 to 1986, according to the lawsuits. The plaintiffs ranged from 4 years old to high school age at the time. All of the alleged assaults occurred in Rackliffe’s office in New Britain.

Rackliffe retired after 54 years as a pediatrician based in the New Britain area.

He worked for himself most of that time. In his deposition, Rackliffe said he stopped doing the rectal examinations when he joined a practice in Southington in 1990 and a physician advised him “not to pull down their pants.”