Expert witness testifies

The Times Plus/June 21, 2002
By Kareesa Wilson

Monroe -- An expert witness specializing in obesity and weight loss took the stand this morning in the jury trial for a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against three doctors, The Monroe Clinic and their insurance companines.

Dr. Steven Heymsfield, an internist doctor specializing in obesity and weight loss from Columbia University in New York, was the third witness in a lawsuit filed in February 1998 by Marilyn and Tom Daly and their son, Jonathan.

The suit, filed in Green County Circuit Court, alleging Drs. Wendell Bell and Rachel Long, both psychiatrists, and Dr. Robert C. Beck, a psychologist, implanted false memories of childhood sexual abuse and trauma during hypnosis sessions and misdiagnosed Marilyn Daly with multiple personalities syndrome. The trial began Monday before reserve judge Thomas H. Barland of Eau Claire.

Heymsfield was asked to review only the records on the weight-loss program Marilyn Daly took part in. He said he saw no evidence of previous psychological conditions. But he said she was referred to Beck after she became overly distressed during the "refeeding" portion of the fasting program. He said people normally get upset at this time, but Marilyn Daly's distress was extreme.

Heymsfield said there's no support that obesity is caused by child sexual abuse, but many times there is psychological damage that goes along with obesity. He also admitted while being cross-examined by Beck's attorney, David McFarlane, that he stated during his deposition that Marilyn Daly apparently had a dysfunctional upbringing with an alcoholic father.

Heymsfield's testimony interrupted two days' of testimony by Tom Daly, who said Thursday during the five years of therapy at The Monroe Clinic, Marilyn Daly became haunted by memories and flashbacks of childhood abuse, trauma and murder.

Daly attorney Pam Smoller walked Tom Daly Thursday through years of therapy sessions and his wife's downward spiral. She compiled a comparison chart on a large board starting before therapy sessions began in 1991 and updated as Daly testified to his wife's changed lifestyle and mindset.

Before therapy, Marilyn Daly was working as a registered nurse at Pleasant View Nursing Home, was an active parent and kept a clean house. By the end of 1996, she was not working, sleeping very little at night, took no interest in household chores or parenting, was self-mutilating and suicidal, he testified.

Marilyn Daly became tormented by memories of supposed repeated sexual abuse by neighbors, relatives and strangers as a young child and even remembered murders, according to testimony. During sessions with Beck and Bell, Marilyn Daly remembered seeing a murdered woman's body sexually abused and witnessing a ritualistic baby killing in which the child's body was mutilated.

Tom Daly testified Thursday that Beck insisted Marilyn relive the pain to recover. But Daly said his wife never got better, instead sinking deeper into suicidal depression.

Daly cried and the court had to take a brief recess when he could not continue recounting one suicide attempt that occurred during a therapy session with Beck.

He said he was waiting in a room near Beck's office for Marilyn to get done when he heard Beck yell "Tom, Tom get in here."

"I rushed in to a horrible sight," Daly said. "I saw Marilyn standing there, hands all covered with blood."

Beck left Daly with his bleeding wife and went for help.

"She said 'I need to taste blood, I need to get blood in my mouth' ... I didn't allow her to put her fingers in her mouth," he testified.

The suit seeks to prove that the memories Marilyn Daly suffered during Clinic therapy sessions were false. As a result, she allegedly suffered from False Memory Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a person believes that he or she remembers events that have not actually occurred.

Tom Daly also said Thursday that since his wife left the Clinic and began treatment at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, she was diagnosed with a sleep disorder and now sleeps well and is improving in other areas.

But he said she is not the same woman. "She is somewhat better but certainly not the same person she was (before Clinic therapy)," he said.

Tom Daly, who grew up in Argyle where the family now lives, taught junior high math in Monticello for 35 years. The couple has four sons: a Beloit police officer, a bank vice president, a mechanic and a student. Their daughter works at a bank.

Tom Daly was to continue his testimony today. The trial is expected to last six weeks. The Dalys are seeking unspecified damages.

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