Hospital Calls Letters 'Regrettable'

In its first public statement on the issue. Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) yesterday "acknowledged" and "regretted" problems in the process by which four staff doctors wrote letters of recommendation for a colleague convicted of rape, and announced its intention to form a committee to review the incident.

"Recent events have focused attention on deficiencies in the process by which letters of reference were written regarding Dr. Arif Hussain. We acknowledge these deficiencies and deeply regret them. We also regret that public confidence concerning professional peer review has been diminished," Dr. William Hassan Jr., acting president of BWH, said in a two-paragraph statement on behalf of the hospital.

"As members of the staff of Brigham and Women's Hospital and as members of the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, we intend to review this incident thoroughly, to make the results of this review public, and to participate in the development of an effective policy to minimize the risk of such occurrences in the future," he added.

The statement, which closely parallels one issued by President Bok last Friday, was adopted after joint talks last week between Bok, Daniel C. Tosteson, dean of the Med School, and F. Stanton Deland, chairman of the BWH Board of Trustees.

The review will be conducted by a joint committee appointed by Tosteson and composed of members of both the Med School faculty and the BWH staff, Deland said yesterday, adding, "Our doctors are so busy already, we didn't want to duplicate work."

The committee which Tosteson will probably appoint sometime in the next week will review the situation of four Harvard-affiliated doctors who wrote letters of recommendation for Hussain, failing to mention that he had been convicted of simple rape only a few weeks before.

The BWH executive committee, which approved the statement yesterday, also passed a resolution last Friday recommending that Hussain and Dr. Eugene Sherry, his co-defendent in the case, be terminated from the hospital staff. Both doctors have been on leaves of absence without pay since their indictments last June, but both are still formally affiliated with the hospital.

"The reason it was handled the way it was is that we didn't want to jeopardize the appeal," Deland said but added that the recent turn of events has added fuel to the fire and "reinforced the case against Dr. Hussain."

The BWH Board of Trustees, which has final authority in the matter, will consider the executive committee's recommendation at its next meeting October 3.

Sources inside the hospital said yesterday the Trustees will probably vote to terminate the two doctors--a move which sources say may trigger the Board of Registration of Medicine to revoke their licenses.

Hussain, Sherry, and a third doctor who is not affiliated with Brigham and Women's were convicted of rape in a highly publicized trial last June. Released pending appeal of his case. Hussain used references from the four BWH physicians to get a job at Buffalo Children's Hospital.

Earlier this month, three new counts of rape and assault were filed against Hussain, after investigation of two alleged incidents in 1978. Representatives at the Buffalo hospital said they did not learn of Hussain's background until after the new charges were filed