Why I Sued My Psychiatrist for Medical Malpractice & Negligence: The Complaint

I sued my psychiatrist for reasons outside of medical malpractice & negligence. His treatment was so outrageous, I believed I had a social responsibility to do my part to stop him or at least slow him down as well as to expose his treatment to let potential clients/patients know about his past behavior. He was a leader in his field and so dead wrong about his theories and opinions.

I experienced the deaths and severe illnesses of several friends who were being treated for MPD while I, too, was in treatment. (Please note that I am not accusing this doctor or hospital or saying they were in any way responsible).

I am a social activist and could not sit by in silence and take no action. Over the next few years, I began to witness the treatment I received spread across the US. It was sucking up women and their families, destroying relationships, destroying reputations, and causing incarceration of innocently accused people. It was unnecessary and related to erroneous recovered memories.

I wanted to clear my name and publicly state that I was not sexually abused or neglected in any way.

Remember, I was treated by an expert’s expert in the diagnosis and treatment of multiple personalities.

~~~~~~~~~~

Below are excerpts from:

Civil Action Complaint (2. personal injury, 2070 – medical malpractice) filed in the Court of Common Pleas Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Term, 1994 by attorney: Richard Shapiro, Esquire.

8. Previous to becoming a patient of defendant XXX, plaintiff was seen by a psychiatrist and therapist for depression.

9. Despite evidence to the contrary, the defendant XXX diagnosed the plaintiff as suffering from multiple personality disorder

11. During the 6-1/2 year period of time that the plaintiff was under the car of defendant XXX, her condition deteriorated.

12. … During the plaintiff’s treatment and hospitalizations, the defendants act in such a reckless and negligent manner, so as to cause serious and permanent injuries to the plaintiff.

13. …consisted of the following:

  • failure to exercise the degree of care and skill ordinarily exercised in similar cases..
  • fail to possess the degree of knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by other psychiatrists, having regard to the current state of knowledge in medicine and psychiatry
  • failure to conform to the requisite standards of medical care under the circumstances
  • failure to employ proper diagnostic technique and testing, in order to arrive at a correct diagnosis
  • failure to make a correct diagnosis, notwithstanding the fact other physicians involved in the care and treatment of plaintiff did so
  • failure to order the appropriate psychopharmicotherapy.
  • failure to diagnose the plaintiff’s depressive illness
  • allowing and encouraging the plaintiff to accept and believe alleged recovered memories, which were plainly unbelievable
  • failure to corroborate or attempt to verify the plaintiff’s recovered memories
  • failure to recognize that the course of treatment, whereby the plaintiff was actively encouraged to recover memories, was proving dramatically counterproductive
  • failure to cease radical abreactive psychotherapy in the face of the plaintiff’s worsening mental state
  • failure to …consult with the plaintiff’s parent, by any formal exploration with legal authorities, or by other means available to him
  • failure to permit the plaintiff to have communication and/or contact with her parents
  • failure to permit the plaintiff’s parents to have communication or contact with plaintiff..
  • overseeing, allowing, and encouraging the use and misuse of sodium amytol [sic] and hypnosis for the purpose of eliciting recovered memories and, thereafter, actively attempting to convince the plaintiff of the veracity of these memories, when the memories elicited were bizarre and improbable and the use of this drug and hypnosis for this purpose is well know as unreliable and fundamentally wrong
  • failure to refrain from “suggesting” recovered memories…
  • “implainting” recovered memories..
  • prescribing medications… which would be expected to increase her tendency toward suggestion, coercion, and manipulation by the defendants
  • employing hypnotic techniques in an already suggestible patient prone to manipulation without advising her that the hypnotic and other supposed therapeutic techniques utilized in her treatment were capable of causing false beliefs in memories of events which never occurred.
  • failure to render reasonable medical care by failure to take prober [sic] cognizance of the plaintiff’s changing medical condition
  • failure to implement a proper treatment course which caused, over time, the plaintiff to experience and display symptoms of a supposed multiple personality in conformity with the defendant’s expectations when, in fact, no such illness existed.
  • As a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the defendants, the plaintiff’s ability to rationally function was destroyed, and the plaintiff herself became convinced that she had hundreds of alternate personalities as a result of extended and repeated sexual and other traumatic abuse as a child… when such events did not, in fact, occur and were the product of coercion and suggestion resulting from the improper techniques employed by the defendants XXX
  • As a further and proximate result of the negligence of the defendants, the plaintiff’s previous relationship with her parents … was effectively destroyed… by reason of disruption of her capacity for rational thought and functioning and the delusional beliefs developed by the plaintiff that she has suffered repeated sexual abuse as a child, when such beliefs were false and the product of the coercive and suggestive methods employed by the defendant XXX in his treatment
  • plaintiff… will continue to be disabled in the future from performing her usual duties, occupation, and avocation, with a consequent loss of earnings, earning power, and earning potential
  • .. has suffered in the past, and will continue to suffer in the future excruciating and agonizing aches, pains, mental anguish, humiliation, disfigurement, and limitations of her usual activities, pursuits, and pleasures.
  • as a direct and proximate result of the carelessness and negligence of the defendants described in the foregoing paragraphs of this complaint, the plaintiff, .. has required in the past, and will in the future, continue to be compelled to expend large sums of money and incur monetary obligations for such care and treatment.

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I Wonder What Would Have Happened If … by Jeanette Barhta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.
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12 Comments

  1. Cecilia

     /  05/11/2011

    Hi. There’s a lot to think about here, in your words and the comments as well. It’s a good site, easy to use, easy to read, clearly intended to be compassionate and strong.

    Certainly patients need advocates, the laws must be upheld and changed as needed, lawsuits like yours must sometimes go forward, men who exceed their rightful roles or become overzealous and wrong must be held accountable.

    But, again I’m bothered by the finger pointing at “DID” and “therapists” and everyone who treats it or believes in it. I’m bothered that the pain experienced by you and others somehow leads directly to a claim DID does not exist, and the proponents and healers are clowns. It seems like say I was mistreated terribly by a grocery store manager, held in the freezer, accused wrongly of something, my life ruined.

    Then I come out and say ALL grocery store managers are wrong, all those stores should be shut down, anyone who goes into that kind of store is being duped and mistreated.

    That’s my problem with your approach, and others I’ve read similar to it. I’ll ponder it some more. I have my own personal issue with someone in the field, but…I really think it’s damaging to swing such a wide pendulum. On the other hand, once can’t ignore that there are significant lawsuits and significant harm has been done. Yet in the medical field for instance, that is true. A “new” procedure will be overused, some will overcharge, a few will be totally irresponsible, a certain number of patients will have terrible consequences. But we don’t usually say that this means the condition never existed, doesn’t exist, and shouldn’t be treated. Nor that ALL doctors who use that procedure are off the wall.

    Food for thought. I sure do think you have an articulate, clean, clear, warm site here, in any case. I hope you might think further on your stance, and approach. As will I.

    P.S. I cannot make a copy of my own comment once it is typed here? I’d like to be able to do that. Possible?

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    • @ Cecelia. I appreciate your kind words regarding my experiences with DID, but they really have nothing to do with debating DID. Without my experiences, I would see this as Dr. Paul McHugh does: as one of the biggest debacles in the history of psychotherapy.

      How did you get from treatment for DID and the torture patients go through at the hands of a professional health care provider – to being locked in a freezer by a grocery clerk? Phew, I am sitting here shaking my head and wondering how to respond. I understand you are making an analogy, but you left out an important fact. Grocery clerks are not mental health providers with the power to influence the course of someone’s life. I think we can reasonably expect a grocery store that locks people in a freezer to be shut down. We can also reasonably suspect that there is a high probability of being shut in a freezer if you enter the store in the future if the store is not shut down and the clerk jailed. So you might find another analogy lol. Again, we are addressing medical personnel, not the general public.

      Then again, perhaps your analogy does work. If people who treat DID are shut down, there is a high probably that the “diagnosis” will go away – again refer to Paul McHugh, MDs work. If people who are practice DID therapy are sanctioned for harm caused to patients and to those who are erroneously accused of crimes based on memories, then yes, we have an analogy that works. As flawed and bias as it is on my part.

      In your words: But, again I’m bothered by the finger pointing at “DID” and “therapists” and everyone who treats it or believes in it. I’m bothered that the pain experienced by you and others somehow leads directly to a claim DID does not exist, and the proponents and healers are clowns.

      I understand your issues with my approach. You mention that others write similar to what I write? Would you mind telling me where to find these people? I cannot find anyone who is writing mostly about MPD/DID and would like to read them.

      Your comments about “new” procedures scares me. I hope you are not one of the one’s tested on who has to live the rest of your life with the consequences of someone else’s experimentation’s on human subjects.

      People needing help for sexual abuse deserve and may need treatment. I don’t recall ever saying that they don’t or anything remotely like that. Treatment for DID is another matter altogether.

      Sorry, my finger is pointed at DID and until it falls off, will stay there. lol As you mention, proponents and, sorry I cannot call them “healers” Are clowns. RETRACTION: 1:14 EST: I retract my use of the word “clowns” that is Cecelia’ word, not mine. I think that therapists who treat DID are most likely compassionate, loving, caring, supporting and terribly misguided and uneducated about the field and science of psychology.

      Perhaps if you were diagnosed with DID and lived your life accordingly, you might be able to understand the point that the diagnosis is off the wall. Check out the post here under “My Mom is a Multiple” – I think that is the title. There is a woman who posts “V” who was raised by a mother treated for DID. Her insights have helped me understand what children go through and may answer some of your questions and clear up some issues you have.

      I don’t understand why you can’t make a copy of your comments. Did you go to the original site and try it?

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  2. V

     /  04/20/2011

    Congrats on suing and on winning your case. I am sure that whatever they gave you, it is not enough.

    My family never sued, for reasons that are unclear to me. My parents never allowed DID to be spoken of after my mother stopped therapy and so I never had any information. I did not understand enough to know that there might have been a lawsuit. We moved a lot and our lives were chaos so it just might have been an issue of organization.

    At any rate, I think the advantage of a lawsuit would have been that it would have held the doctors accountable. I would have liked for that to happen. On the other hand, if my dysfunctional parents got a huge infusion of cash, I suspect that they would have done something crazy with it. These are not people with any degree of financial sense. The money may have caused more problems.

    I think that my mother’s therapists do owe society money. It was government money that paid for my mother’s treatment, and that’s money that could have gone to feeding the homeless or paying the medical bills of someone with cancer or building better schools.

    In addition, these therapists left carnage behind them. My siblings and I have struggled and there are ongoing costs to society associated with that. My mother’s original mental illness was never treated and that is expensive for society, too. There are so many things that might have been, that never were, because of what those doctors did.

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    • Hello V,

      I find it interesting that there was no mention of DID after your mother left. What happened with all the personalities? Did they disappear like mine did?

      Yes, I was trying to say “held accountable” regarding pressing legal action against the doctor & hospital. Unfortunately, for me, the hospital only paid what I had paid them for one month’s stay – I was there 1040 days. They got off so easy it is appalling. Only a few cases make high judgments and I wasn’t one of them. Sometimes I wish I had gone to trial. I gave up my chance to say publicly, what I had to say before his colleagues and peers.

      I agree. There is a lot of carnage left behind from bad therapy. My blog only covers one topic, there are a few organizations that cover the entire mental health care profession. Most therapists do not cause such long-term injury, but the ones that do – phew, they do it good.

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      • V

         /  04/21/2011

        Wow, one month — that is ridiculous. They should be ashamed .

        My parents announced when my mother “got” DID and for a while it was everything in our house with the psychiatrists visiting, etc. Then things got worse and worse and more chaotic. At some point things faded away. I am not sure about the exact timeline because I was fairly young and pretty messed up myself.

        We did move > 1,000 miles, and at that point therapy stopped. Some time later ( think), my sibling said “Your other personalities went away!” to my mother. My parents got very serious and there was a silence an my mother waved her hands around and said something ike, “yeah, they went away on their own.” That was the extent of the conversation about any of what happened. I never heard another word from my parents about those years, until decades later.

        At the time my mother stopped having DID, other family drama started up. This sibling of mine, who had always been the truth teller and the one to speak up when things did not make sense, started getting into drugs and became violent and became lost very shortly after that. I think that the strain of being so honest in such a dishonest place might have been what broke this sibling. This is one of the great tragedies of DID for me — this sibling was very talented and had a great soul, and a very direct personality, and look where that got them.

        My mother also would sometimes backslide into old habits, if I remember right. I remember an incident in the car years after DID was gone when she started talking in baby voices and my father said, “Enough of that” and she immediately stopped. So, I think at that point my father knew it was fake, although he did not tell us.

        At any rate, even when we were in the thick of DID, we weren’t allowed to talk about it, especially if we had doubts or were unhappy. For instance, I was not allowed to tell anyone at school about my mother’s DID. Even when my mother was involuntarily committed we couldn’t talk about what happened. And, once DID went away we were really yelled at if we mentioned anything related to the topic.

        I also have some suspicion that, a bit prior to our move, some therapist may have tried to wean my mother off DID. I remember her saying she was “bipolar” for a while. I am not sure whether that was DID+ bipolar or whether she decided she was bipolar rather than DID.

        My timeline may also be somewhat off because memories are not perfectly reliable (if DID taught me one thing it’s that!) I wish I had more information about what exactly happened.

        I think that some part of me knew what was up, but I chose to pretend that things were OK when they were not for years and years. Maybe that was the best strategy, considering what happened to my more honest sibling.

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        Reply
        • Hi V.

          I am thankful that you are sharing your story – I have not learned about some of the things you say. It makes sense why your parents didn’t want to talk about DID, but it must have been very scary for you and your siblings. Being young, not understanding, having to keep a family secret – that’s a lot to ask from little kids.

          I find it interesting that you say your mother “got” DID. It’s contrary to theories, but I agree and know what you mean. I hope some of the experiences I share here are able to fill in some gaps for you. That is, maybe they are able to help you figure out what may have been going on with the adults in your life. I am so glad your mom got out.

          I’m going to hope that your sibling with the good soul finds their way out and learns somehow, that it was not his or her fault. And yes, it was a chaotic home life, scary, et al. I’m so sorry.

          As a kid, of course you pretended all was OK – you were in survival mode. I’m happy you did so well. Be well.

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          • V

             /  04/23/2011

            I didn’t do that well a lot of the time. I have often managed to look good on the outside but I have been pretty messed up in a lot of ways. However, I think I have figured some things out now.

            I do like info on this topic. I think it helps me to sort things out sometimes. I sometimes have to step back from it as well. There is a balance. Still, I think that nothing helped me to in my own struggles more than figuring out that DID was not real, because I was carrying so much shame and so much misinformation.

            Thanks for your blog & support.

            Like

          • V, You’re welcome for the blog & support & am pleased to have found you.

            I got better instantly when I realized I had been duped into believing in DID. It was an odd experience when I figured that out – and it came during the year I decided to get physically healthy. All that exercising, weight loss, eating well, & endorphins all made my head clear up and I needed (and didn’t want) as many drugs to calm me down after remembering yet another horrific sexually abusive act.

            Deciding to hold the psychiatrist & hospital accountable through litigation was paramount to my gaining increased health. I kept my eye on the day I would be in court to tell the jurors what happened. It got me thorough many dark times. I looked forward to the day I could see Dr. Stratford in the witness chair telling the people of Philadelphia his version of what therapy he thought was necessary to treat the depression I presented to him when we met. But we settled and I never got the pleasure.

            My former doctor was so arrogant, that he thought he could convince my attorney, and the court, that he was right about his diagnosis of MPD. He offered information and documentation that wasn’t requested in an effort to sway opinions. Since he still thought I had DID, he knocked himself out trying to educate those involved in the suit that he was the expert and was supremely right. The fact that I was level headed and rational made his statements more than foolish. You should have seen the look on his attorney’s face when I appeared for the depositions wearing a suit & heels. He may very well have lost his teeth if they weren’t glued in. I supposed that Dr. Stratford had his attorney convinced I would show up as a babbling idiot wearing a hospital gown with my back end hanging out. That was one of my better moments.

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          • V

             /  04/27/2011

            I agree that physical activity is so therapeutic. I am not athletic but it still helps me.

            That is funny about the suit and heels. Apparently the therapist managed to even bend the attorney’s reality. I am glad that you managed to make a good impression.

            It is sad for me to think, though, that someone really mentally ill would have not had a chance in court. The most vulnerable patients are the ones who aren’t going to be able to clean up nice and be articulate about what happened to them. A paranoid schizophrenic, for example, would probably make a terrible impression in court, but such a person is extraordinarily vulnerable to exploitation by a bad psychiatrist.

            I am glad that you stood up for yourself and maybe also for patients who are not as able to express themselves.

            Like

          • V, I agree that severely mentally ill people may have a more difficult time in court and may not understand, or know, they have the right to proper treatment. But, there are hospital records that do not lie. Medicine prescriptions that tell a story. Therapists are supposed to keep notes – they too, tell a story whether or not they are complete. If they are not complete, why?

            I must interject here, that my former psychiatrist “doctored” his notes when he wanted to prove that I was in need of prolonged treatment mandated by the court. I found this out when I was researching for my autobiography. I took one day, for example, and pulled all the notes from the doctor, the nurses, the psych aids, and my journals and put them side by side. Now that was a story! Sometimes the discrepancies between them were so wild it was pitiful. Once I wrote in my journal that I went home to a family birthday party and talked about the fun I had and that I stayed longer than I expected to. The doctor wrote that I was amnesic for the event.

            There are many avenues that mental health consumers can take to show that they have not received proper treatment. I understand what you say about impressions in court. That too, is indicative of someone’s life and how they may have been treated in the mental health care system – or not treated. I can imagine the reluctance of a law firm to take mental health cases – but then again, I found one. But only after being denied by many firms and by me rejecting several others due to their positions.

            I am not advocating lawsuits. I advocate proper therapy and proper diagnosis. I advocate second opinions and informing yourself about treatment and perhaps a diagnosis you may have received. In this day of the Internet, there is plenty of information if a patient wants it. But, one needs to learn how to sift thorough the crap to get to solid information. I am trying to do that here by posting ALERTS for consumers.

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  3. Good on you Jeanette, for speaking up!

    Keep at it.

    Kudos,
    ~cw

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