This Is Not An MD Anderson Problem: The Child Pornography Case of a Member of the Pediatric Faculty

This Is Not An MD
Anderson Problem: The Child Pornography Case of a Member of the Pediatric


Leonard Zwelling

         It was just about as salacious as it could be.

         A prominent, well-funded, highly regarded and eminently
likeable member of the Pediatric faculty at MD Anderson has been arrested for
possession of child pornography.

         The latest word I have is that he is not being accused of
anything but the possession. He has not made pornography, distributed it or in
any way harmed any children, as far as we now at this time. Bail has been set,
so it is likely that he will be free from the incarceration he has been
suffering since Friday, June 5.

much like possessing heroin, just having this stuff is illegal. My reading of
the court documents suggests to me that he as much as admitted to having the
more than 8000 files, so his ‘not guilty’ plea on June 9 was probably the
opening gambit in a negotiation to try to keep him out of jail.

         I know Dr. Hughes through the many social events I have
attended over the years. This came as a complete shock to me and from what I
have read in the media, an equal shock to his co-workers.

         MD Anderson has been in the news a great deal since 2011 and
even before that. A lot of the news has not been good, but I shall not rehash
that old business. This is very different.

         This is not the use of position or prominence to gain
purchase in financial matters. It is not a conflict between opposing fiduciary
responsibilities. This is not even the equally dreadful tale of 2014 in which
one faculty member was found guilty of trying to poison another. In all those
other cases, one could find a role that MD Anderson, its leadership, or its prevailing
culture played in the misdeeds. Not this time.

         Quite the opposite.

         It appeared to me that the leadership of MD Anderson and of
Pediatrics moved swiftly to acknowledge the unique nature of this problem and
in which department it occurred. The leadership reached out to all faculty and
to all patients in a completely appropriate and, to the extent possible,
tasteful fashion. This is not a reflection on MD Anderson at all. This is a
personal tragedy for one man and his family.

         In the ensuing period, I have been called for advice on who
would have a bead on this story vis a vis the other things that have happened
at MD Anderson in recent years. My answer is no one. This is an aberrancy and
should be treated as such. As far as I can tell, the accusation of criminal
activity and probably addictive behavior is the sum total of the story. There
is no deeper meaning for the MD Anderson community at-large.

         For the faculty member’s co-workers, his trainees and his
supervisors this is a catastrophe, but not one for which they can be held
responsible. He owns this all by himself and will undoubtedly pay the price.

         For the rest of MD Anderson and the greater community who
believes in its mission, let’s move on.  

         Sometimes bad stuff just happens and it is not necessarily
everyone’s fault but those perpetrating the evil. This is one of those times.

2 thoughts on “This Is Not An MD Anderson Problem: The Child Pornography Case of a Member of the Pediatric Faculty”

  1. Len – Agree that not everything revolves around the MDA universe, but beyond that your post is way off base. You suggest that this person is "suffering" incarceration and that "unfortunately" possession of child porn is illegal. You underscore that he has "not in any way harmed any children" and that this is a "personal tragedy for one man and his family".

    I think your language and tone was intended to support your argument that this crime has nothing to with MDA's culture etc, but this is obvious to anyone with half a brain. But in making your case, you minimize the seriousness of the crime and ignore the plain fact that hundreds of children were harmed during the production of the content that this person is accused of possessing. We all get your core argument – but the way you got there was ill-conceived and callous.

  2. I sure didn't mean to minimize the evil this crime represents and perhaps this one was closer to the bone than I admitted to myself given that I knew Dr. Hughes well.

    You got my drift exactly right. I need to work on my language precision. Thanks for reading.


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