Expert says two Monroe doctors were wrong

The Times Plus/June 25, 2002
By Kareesa Wilson

Monroe -- Two Monroe Clinic doctors failed to accurately diagnose and treat an Argyle woman, the former head of clinical psychology at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore testified Monday in a jury trial for a medical malpractice lawsuit the woman and her family filed against The Monroe Clinic, three doctors and their insurance companies.

Dr. Paul McHugh, who served as director of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins for 26 years until retiring last year, told jurors psychologist Robert C. Beck and psychiatrist Wendell Bell did not follow medical standards to diagnose and treat Marilyn Daly.

Marilyn, her husband Tom Daly and their son Jonathan filed the lawsuit in February 1998 in Green County Circuit Court alleging Bell and Rachel Long, both psychiatrists, and Beck implanted false memories of childhood sexual abuse and trauma during hypnosis sessions and misdiagnosed her with multiple personalities syndrome. The incidents allegedly took place from 1991 to 1993 at The Monroe Clinic where the doctors were employed. The six-week trial began last week before reserve judge Thomas H. Barland of Eau Claire.

McHugh, who testified for more than eight hours Monday and took the stand again this morning, said his review of Bell's and Beck's notes and records for Marilyn Daly show she continued to get worse over two years, while they did not change or alter her treatment.

McHugh said the doctors inadequately evaluated Daly before starting therapy, used hypnosis without giving a reason why it was needed and over-medicated the woman.

"Nowhere do I find a complete record of an evaluation of the kind I would have expected from a psychiatrist and psychologist," McHugh said. "They never sat down and went over from day one all aspects of this case."

He said the doctors' personal interpretations took the place of impartial observation. Daly's attorney, William Smoler, asked McHugh if the case reflects a "therapist with an agenda" and McHugh agreed and said it showed "a lack of thoroughness and objectivity."

The doctors did not take into account that Marilyn Daly had just lost more than 100 pounds on an intense starvation diet, nor did they explore other reasons for why she was anxious, McHugh said. Daly began seeing Beck in 1991 at the end of a clinical liquid diet. Records show she claimed to be nervous about gaining the weight back when her therapy began. McHugh said starvation can prompt symptoms like Daly complained of in 1991.

Beck, who conducted hypnosis sessions with Daly to recover memories, was not qualified to use hypnosis, McHugh said. Smoler said Beck's only training in hypnosis was at workshops for pain management and he was not certified, which McHugh said did not qualify him to use hypnosis without supervision.

McHugh was most blunt when asked about his evaluation that took Bell and Beck to task for not challenging the "absurd idea of the baby killings." Records show Daly recovered a "memory" of witnessing as a young child babies being killed, chopped up and fed to animals. McHugh said Bell and Beck were clearly negligent for not taking action when that subject came up. "I don't understand why everybody didn't stop right there," he said. He said the doctors should have stopped immediately and investigated whether such killings did or were still occurring.

The "recovered" memories Daly had of terrible abuse as a young girl by relatives, neighbors and strangers should have been investigated, McHugh said. He said there was no evidence either doctor talked to Daly's family to find out if any of the memories were true.

McHugh said when Daly was first admitted to the hospital psychiatric ward in 1992 the doctors should have immediately reevaluated the situation to find out why it was getting worse and if that was the correct course they should take.

Despite repeated hospitalizations, increasing suicidal tendencies and self-mutilation and heavy medications, Daly's rapid deterioration did not stop Bell and Beck from continuing with their course of therapy to have her recover memories. The evidence that Daly did not improve, but went from a functioning woman with a job and busy life to a person who could not work or function, should have prompted reevaluation at several points, McHugh said.

But the doctors did not reconsider their treatment. "There is no turning back here," McHugh said.

Defense attorneys were expected to cross-examine McHugh this morning.

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