Robert L. Sadoff, Forensic Psychiatry Pioneer, Dies at 81

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Robert L. “Bob” Sadoff

Robert L. “Bob” Sadoff, one of the nation’s leading forensic psychiatrists, died in Abington April 17 at the age of 81 after a battle with pancreatic cancer — but the battle itself speaks to his character.

“He was remarkably courageous through his battle with advanced pancreatic cancer,” said son David Sadoff. “It’s a really bad illness, nobody survives it, most people succumb after a matter of months. My dad, even at his age and with a weak heart, after getting his diagnosis in January or February 2015, managed well over two years, which says something about the fight that he had inside, and that’s kind of a remarkable thing in itself.”

The outpouring of support and love the family has received since Sadoff’s passing speaks volumes about the Minneapolis native, who helped lay the foundations for the field of forensic psychiatry and served as one of the original eight members of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, becoming its second president in the ’70s.


When he wasn’t reading mystery novels, watching sports or traveling with Joan, his wife of 58 years, Sadoff maintained a private psychiatric practice in Jenkintown and provided expert consultation services for everyone from prosecutors, defense counsel and judges to state hospitals and prisons. He examined and testified as an expert witness on the mental state of more than 10,000 individuals charged with crimes or accused of civil violations.

In 2016, he retired as clinical professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Studies in Social-Legal Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, whose medical faculty he joined in 1972.

As a nod to his contributions, the Perelman School of Medicine established the Robert Sadoff Professorship in Forensic Psychiatry. He also taught at Temple University and Villanova Law School.

Sadoff was also passionate about antiquarian book collecting, particularly in the areas of law, medicine and psychiatry. He donated 4,000 books to the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

To his four children, he was a loving father as generous with his time to them as he was to organizations such the American Friends of Magen David Adom and Gratz College.

“At night, if we ever had questions, we would go into his office and he always put down whatever he was doing and immediately made us the priority, talked with us, answered our questions, helped us with homework — whatever it might be,” David Sadoff said.

He was a man of integrity, David Sadoff said, adding that his father was an “extremely ethical individual who always considered what was the right thing to do, making sure proper people got credit and that other individuals weren’t somehow adversely affected by decisions. That strong ethical streak was kind of part of his core.”

Robert L. Sadoff is survived by his wife, Joan, their four children and 10 grandchildren.

Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740

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