Patient Wins Landmark $635,177 Verdict for Electroshock (ECT) Memory Loss

A South Carolina woman has become the first survivor of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, shock treatment) to win a jury verdict and a large money judgment in compensation for extensive permanent amnesia and cognitive disability caused by the procedure.

Peggy S. Salters, 60, sued Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, as well as the three doctors responsible for her care. As the result of an intensive course of outpatient ECT in 2000, she lost all memories of the past 30 years of her life, including all memories of her husband of three decades, now deceased, and the births of her three children. Ms. Salters held a Masters of Science in nursing and had a long career as a psychiatric nurse, but lost her knowledge of nursing skills and was unable to return to work after ECT.

The jury awarded her $635,177 in compensation for her inability to work. The malpractice verdict was against the referring doctor, Eric Lewkowiez. The jury could not return a verdict against the other two doctors because of one holdout vote for acquittal. The hospital settled its liability for an undisclosed sum early in the trial.

Former patients have reported devastating, permanent amnesia and cognitive impairment since ECT was first invented in 1938, but that has not hindered the treatment’s popularity with doctors. The first lawsuit for ECT amnesia, Marilyn Rice v. John Nardini, was brought exactly thirty years ago, and dozens of suits have followed. While there have been a few settlements, including one for half a million dollars, no former patient has won a case until now.

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, who served as Ms. Salters’ expert witness, was also the expert in Rice v. Nardini, and has appeared for plaintiffs many times over the past three decades without success. Psychologist Mary E. Shea presented extensive neuropsychological testing proving to the jury’s satisfaction that Ms. Salters suffers dementia due to ECT brain damage.

Expert for the defense was Charles Kellner of New Jersey, formerly of the Medical University of South Carolina. He testified that giving Ms. Salters’ 13 shocks in 19 days, instead of 26 days as is usual, was not a violation of the American Psychiatric Association guidelines. However, his assertions that Ms. Salters’ severe suicidality justified the controversial treatment could not be substantiated by the medical records. 82-year-old Max Fink of New York, widely regarded as the “grandfather of shock” and the author of many books and articles on ECT, was scheduled to testify for the defense, but in the end only watched the trial from the courtroom. The defense did not call him as a witness due to incriminating statements made under oath at his deposition.

For the past three decades, defense attorneys have won case after case by the same strategy: browbeating the jury with the plaintiff’s psychiatric history, playing upon the prevailing cultural notions that mental patients are incapable of telling the truth and doctors don’t lie; even claiming that mental illness causes amnesia and brain damage. Even neurological testing showing brain damage has been brushed aside. Peggy Salters’ case is the first in which a former ECT patient has been believed. She says she sees it as a victory for all ECT survivors.

Case information: Peggy S. Salters vs. Palmetto Health Alliance, Inc., d/b/a Palmetto Baptist Medical Center; Robt. Schnackenberg, M.D., Individually, Eric Lewkowiez, M.D., Individually, Columbia Psychiatric Associates, P.A.; and Kenneth Huggins, M.D., Individually; Case 03CP4004797, Richland County, South Carolina

Source: “Landmark Decision: Jury Awards $635,177 Damages for Memory Loss from Electroshock,” press release of Committee for Truth in Psychiatry, July 8, 2005.

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Psychologist Crystal M. Knight Suspended for Sex with Former Patient

On June 5th, 2018, the West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists issued an Order suspending the license of psychologist Crystal M. Knight, M.A. for two years, with terms and conditions which she must meet.

Crystal Knight

Crystal M. Knight, M.A.

According to the “Findings of Fact,” as contained in the Order, the Board opened an investigation of Knight based on a complaint filed by “M,” a former patitent, concerning behavior on the part of Knight which “may have crossed professional boundaries between psychologist and client.” The alleged behavior occurred during the time that Knight was providing court-ordered family therapy counseling to M and her husband, “D.”

Knight admitted to Board investigators that she became friends with M and D, assisted M in obtaining a rental space for a business she was starting, and later visited M and D at the business and had lunch with them.

She discussed her pending divorce with M and D.

She began a sexual relationship with D within two years of the termination of the therapist-patient relationship.

Should she request reinstatement of her license at the end of the two years, the Board will place her license on probation, under which she will be required, at her own expense, to practice under the supervision of a Board-selected licensed psychologist.

Source: West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists vs. Crystal Knight, M.A. (Lic. #1042), Ethical Inquiry No. 2017-11, Consent Agreement and Order, June 5, 2018.

Former Employee of Detroit Behavioral Institute -Capstone Academy?

Did you leave employment there because of policies or practices that were in conflict with your professional and/or moral integrity?

Do you want to see the right thing done for the sake of the patients?

If so, please contact the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). They will listen to your concerns and keep them completely confidential. CCHR may be able to help you with regard to Capstone.

Please contact Steve Wagner at swagner@cchr.org

Are You a Former Patient of Capstone Academy – Detroit Behavioral Institute?

 

Did you receive less-than-acceptable or less-than-humane treatment?

Were you harmed or injured while you were a patient at Capstone?

Did Capstone neglect your health or your injuries?

Did a loved one die while hospitalized at Capstone?

If you would like to discuss your experience and file a report, please contact Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

CCHR will keep your information completely confidential and may be able to assist you take action.

Please contact Steve Wagner at swagner@cchr.org

Psychologist James Medina Loses License for Sexual Misconduct

On September 14, 2017, the California Board of Psychology revoked James Medina’s license.

The Board’s Order of Decision states that Medina treated a female patient from July 2008 until summer 2014. The patient was 27 years old at the start and had disclosed to the Medina that she was an adult survivor of child sexual abuse.

The Board concluded that Medina had engaged in gross negligence, repeated negligent acts, unprofessional conduct, and sexual misconduct in his treatment of the patient. Further, he kept inadequate and inaccurate records for the patient, among other violations.

The document describes Medina’s sexualized behavior toward the patient, including personal emails, texts, and social media comments relative to her appearance, sex-related advice, expressions of sexual desire, and unwanted physical contact, such as hugs and rubbing of the back, waist and sides of breasts, and angry expletive-laced texts.  Medina also engaged in social activities with the patient and her friend, gave the patient money on a few occasions, purchased the patient’s television, among numerous other treatment and record-keeping violations.

Source: Order of Decision In the Matter of the First Amended Accusation Against James Medina, Ph.D., California Board of Psychology, October 9, 2017.

Psychiatrist Brian Cassmassi, Guilty of Indecent Exposure, May Lose License

On March 7, 2018, the Medical Board of California issued an Accusation against Los Angeles psychiatrist Brian J. Cassmassi. The Accusation seeks to revoke or suspend Cassmassi’s license due to a criminal conviction substantially related to the practice of psychiatry.

The document states that on or about June 29, 2016, a criminal complaint was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court which charged Cassmassi with one count of indecent exposure. According to the Accusation, in October 2015, Cassmassi provided psychotherapy and medication management to a male patient, T.C., to whom he “showed gay pornography on his laptop computer, exposed his penis and began masturbating himself in front of the patient.”

In an interview with the Medical Board, Cassmassi admitted he’d done these things.

Source: “In the Matter of the Accusation Against Brian Joseph Cassmassi,” Case 800-2015-017882, Medical Board of California.

NY State Refuses to Reinstate Psychiatrist Richard Karpf

On January 4, 2018, the Commission of the New York State Education Department Office of Professional Discipline denied psychiatrist Richard Karpf’s petition to have his medical license restored.

On July 1, 2004, Karpf entered into an agreement with the State Board for Professional Medical Conduct (“Board”) to surrender his license. This surrender was coincident with Karpf’s July 1st guilty plea for Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree—an armed felony.

He gave up his license in a plea agreement to avoid going to jail; he faced 25 years.

The Board’s Statement of Charges states that Karpf “inappropriately involved a patient of his psychiatric practice in the procurement of a weapon.” According to later news reports, Karpf told the patient that he needed the gun to kill some of his patients. The patient notified the police, and agreed to cooperate with a sting operation.  The patient, wearing a hidden recording device, recorded his next meetings with Karpf, in which the psychiatrist discussed his plan to kill the people, and how he would dispose of their bodies, by dismembering them, placing body parts in heavy-duty plastic bags, renting a boat and dumping the bags into the shark-infested areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Karpf was arrested upon purchasing a handgun and silencer from an undercover police officer, to whom he’d confided that he wanted to shoot his victims at point blank range in the heart and the head.

Even before his February 2003 grand jury indictment on weapons charges and conspiracy to commit murder, news stories appeared in the New York Post and elsewhere which indicated that one of the patients Karpf allegedly wanted to murder was a female with whom he’d carried on a sexual relationship and that he’d been driven to “a murderous rage when [the] affair went sour.”

Attorney Ruth Bernstein, representing an unnamed female client (and former Karpf patient), stated in a Post story that Karpf “engaged in improper sexual contact with a sick patient who came to him for help.” She stated that her client “was manipulated and abused by him…. He led her to believe that this [sexual contact] was going to be therapeutic.”

Source: “Predator Shrink,” New York Post, Jan. 11, 2003; “Great Neck Psychiatrist Indicted on Conspiracy Charges,” Newsday.com, Feb. 20, 2003, “In the Matter of Richard James Karpf, M.D.” Surrender Order, New Yok State Board for Professional Medical Conduct,” Jul 16, 2004 and “Re: Application for Restoration” [denial of reinstatement], State Education Dept./University of New York Office of Professional Discipline, Feb. 16, 2018.