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USA v. Peterson, et al.

False Memory Syndrome Foundation Compilation: Roberta Sachs


F M S   F O U N D A T I O N   N E W S L E T T E R     (e-mail edition)
Vol 3 No. 10, November 1, 1994                 November/December issue

              The Independent (London), October 17, 1994

  "After seven years in therapy, in and out of hospitals until
February 1992, Kathryn Schwiderski [who entered therapy for mild
depression] is divorced and has no contact with her husband, children,
grandchildren, sister or parents. She was subjected to criminal
investigation and interrogation and reported to the Child Protection
Services, she says, without any evidence. She became convinced she was
a member and victim of a satanic cult since her childhood and that she
sexually and physically abused her own children; now she believes the
memories were false, implanted by therapists through hypnotism and
drugs. She continues to experience extreme emotional problems."
  Dennis Schwiderski, Texas oil company executive, was "investigated
by a grand jury for allegedly abusing his son, but the case was not
pursued, he says, because there was no evidence against him." He is
trying to find one of his children, Kelly 23, who has disappeared and
believed to be hiding. She apparently still believes she was a member
and victim of a cult.
  The family contends that "therapists created false memories as part
of a scheme to collect millions of dollars in fees for treatment of
non-existent abuse at the hands of a satanic cult." The case will go
to trial next year. "The defendants include some of America’s leading
exponents of recovered memory techniques. They are Judith Peterson, a
psychologist from Houston, who first treated the family; Roberta
Sachs, a psychologist from Illinois; and Bennett Braun, an Illinois
doctor who specializes in multiple personality disorder. The family
members are also suing the hospitals where they were treated. In
total, there are 25 defendants. Not all face every allegation, but all
are defending the action."
  "Over the years, Dennis was sent bills totaling $2 million -- health
insurance covered most of it."
  "All the defendants have filed a defense denying the allegations
without detailing their arguments, as is common in US courts. They
stand by the therapists’ diagnosis that the Schwiderski family were
members of a satanic cult and therefore their treatment was

F M S   F O U N D A T I O N   N E W S L E T T E R     (e-mail edition)
Vol 6 No. 11, December 1997
          Record Settlement in False Memory Malpractice Case
        Burgus v. Braun, Circuit Court, Cook County, Illinois
                    Case Nos. 91L8493/91L8493.[6]

Six years after filing, and on the day trial was expected to begin,
Patricia Burgus and her family agreed to accept $10.6 million from her
former therapists and hospital in what is believed to be a record
settlement amount for a false memory suit. Rush Presbyterian-
St. Luke’s Medical Center agreed to pay $3.5 million based on
derivative charges concerning treatment of the Burgus children. The
remaining $7.3 million will be paid by psychiatrists Bennett Braun and
Elva Poznanski. The status of three additional defendants, Roberta
G. Sachs, Ph.D., Ann-Marie Baughman, ACSW, and Rush-Presbyterian as it
pertains to Patricia Burgus’ treatment is currently on appeal before
the Court of Appeal, 1st Dist., Ill. Court documents [7] detail the
charges against defendants Braun, Poznanski, and the hospital. Burgus
was referred to the hospital for severe post-partum depression. She
received a diagnosis of MPD and was treated with various medications,
hypnosis, and occasionally kept in leather restraints during 6 years
of treatment that included 2 1/2 years as an inpatient. Burgus became
convinced that she was a member of a satanic cult, had participated in
ritual murder, and had sexually abused her two children, none of which
was true. Burgus was also persuaded to hospitalize her two healthy
children, then ages 4 and 5, for almost three years because doctors
believed her disorder might be genetic. Patricia and her husband
Michael had to obtain a court order to get their children released
from the hospital.
  Zachary Bravos, one of Burgus’s attorneys, said, "This case
demonstrates the tremendous influence people in authority can have
over a patient. While false satanic abuse memories are the most easily
attacked outgrowth of such therapy, we really shouldn’t lose sight of
the fact that great harm can be caused when any false memory is
encouraged and accepted without corroboration. If they can do this to
adults, they can certainly do it to children." "Psychologists have
known for 100 years that false memories can be implanted using
hypnosis," said Christopher Barden, another of Burgus’s attorneys.
Burgus was also represented by attorney Todd Smith of Chicago. Her
attorneys said that if the case had gone to trial, they were prepared
to call on experts to support their case. These experts were: William
Grove, Ph.D., James Hudson, M.D., Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D., Paul
McHugh, M.D., Richard Ofshe, Ph.D., and August Piper, M.D.
  The defendants made no admission of negligence in the settlement.
Dr. Bennett Braun, director of the hospital’s section of psychiatric
trauma, called the settlement a "travesty" and said that it was done
over his objections. Dr. Braun said Mrs. Burgus raised the stories
herself and exaggerated the use of hypnotism. Braun said he used
"standard psychotherapy" and any hypnosis was for pain control. Braun
is quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Yes the kids did see
handcuffs. They did see a gun. But it was for therapeutic reasons."
Psychiatrist Elva Poznanski, the hospital’s section chief of child and
adolescent psychiatry, treated Ms. Burgus’s sons from 1986 to 1989.
Dr. Poznanski issued a statement saying, "On the basis of the
knowledge available at that time, I would not change the treatment of
these boys."
  "I nearly died," Burgus said. "The memories I was being told were in
my mind were so terrible that I could not live with myself as that
kind of person." The "physical and psychological torture" drove her to
attempt suicide. "They have taken my past, rewritten my past,
contaminated all of the memories that I have as a person, and I’m
supposed to go on and live my life as though this has never happened.
It’s just not possible." Burgus said, "Our family was tortured for
years at Rush. No amount of money can make up for what we went
through." She said her family is still recovering from the ordeal.
  Burgus, who is now president of the Mental Health Association of
DuPage Co., Ill. said, "I hope that five or 10 years from now, history
will reflect that this was a terribly dark period of psychiatry and
that we did something to stop it."

[6] See also, FMSF Newsletter, Nov. 1997; PBS Frontline, "The Search
    for Satan" (11/1/95) produced by Ofra Bikel; Ofshe, R. and
    Watters, E., (1994) "Therapy of a High Priestess,"Making Monsters,
    Scribners; Belluck, P. (11/6/97) "‘Memory’ Therapy leads to a
    lawsuit and big settlement," The New York Times; Rotzoll, B.
    (11/5/97) "Settlement ends woman’s ordeal; $10.6 million for
    ‘psychological torture.’"  Chicago Sun-Times; Gregory, T.
    (11/7/97) "$10 million award in psychiatry suit, new blot on
    therapy," Chicago Tribune.
[7] FMSF Brief Bank #4 contains Complaints and many of the filings
    from the 6 year history of this suit.
[8] See FMSF Brief Bank #178.

F M S   F O U N D A T I O N   N E W S L E T T E R     (e-mail edition)
September 1998 Vol 7 No. 7

ILLINOIS: A psychiatric malpractice suit was filed recently in Cook
County Illinois against Bennett Braun, M.D., Roberta Sachs, Ph.D.,
Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center, and Corydon Hammond,
Ph.D. The plaintiff, who had been hospitalized continuously for four
years, is represented by Zachary Bravos of Wheaton Illinois and Todd
Smith of Chicago.

See also Dr. Sachs et al. on ritual abuse

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