SEPTEMBER 03, 02:31 EDTTherapist Found Negligent in Lawsuit
By ROBERT IMRIE
Associated Press Writer
WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) A jury awarded $850,000 in damages to a woman who claimed false childhood memories implanted by her psychiatrist made her believe she was molested by her father and had multiple personalities.
The jury on Thursday found Dr. Juan Fernandez III negligent in his care of Joan Hess, who said the psychiatrist implanted memories during hypnosis that led her to believe she was sexually abused, that she had more than 75 personalities and that her parents belonged to a cult that forced others to have sex with animals and witness babies being killed and eaten.
``This is a vindication this craziness was not her fault,'' said William Smoler, Mrs. Hess' attorney.
Repressed-memory therapy contends victims of childhood trauma can forget the abuse for decades, and it can be the source of adult disorders. Recovering the memories can cure the disorders.
Mrs. Hess, 47, the ex-wife of former Wausau Mayor John Hess, contended none of the horrors her therapy revealed actually occurred, and that she was permanently harmed by the ordeal.
``In my view, there is no defense for this kind of therapy,'' Smoler said. ``If that means that this is now a message that this stuff has to stop, I hope the message is delivered.''
Fernandez declined comment as he left the courtroom. One of his attorneys, Tom Rusboldt, said he was unsure about an appeal, or what the decision would mean to Fernandez's career. The state agency that licenses doctors will be notified of the verdict, Rusboldt said.
Mrs. Hess contended some of the personalities caused her to threaten suicide, forcing her to be hospitalized numerous times.
Defense attorneys argued that Mrs. Hess believed there was something bad in her past before she began treatment with Fernandez, and that Fernandez acted as a responsible psychiatrist would to help her.
``Dr. Fernandez did what good psychiatrists do,'' defense attorney Paul Grimstad said. ``He followed his training and he followed the textbook.''
The trial lasted 15 weeks, and included testimony from psychiatrists on repressed-memory therapy, hypnosis, and multiple personality disorder.
The jury deliberated for 25 hours before finding that Fernandez was negligent for his care and treatment of Mrs. Hess, for failing to explain the risk of the treatment, and for failing to get her consent for the therapy.
Mrs. Hess began treatment with Fernandez in 1991, when she was being treated for depression. The care continued until 1994.
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