When most community members think of “malpractice” or “medical malpractice” certain things immediately come to mind. Images are conjured of doctors operating on the wrong body part, patients receiving far too much medication than necessary, or physicians who fail to identify deadly cancer spreading through a patient’s body. These are certainly all common examples of medical errors. However, in the legal context “malpractice” can apply to all kinds of professionals. Lawyers, dentists, accountants, and others can all be found liable of not acting as reasonable professionals would have acted under the same circumstances.
The Washington Post reported earlier this week on another malpractice lawsuit that was filed outside of the common hospital context. The unique case involves a suit against a psychologist filed by a former patient who claims that the doctor implanted memories to get her to stay at her recovery center. The 31-year old alleged victim spent fifteen months seeking treatment from the defendant-psychologist to receive treatment for anorexia. Part of the treatment involved hypnosis sessions. The victim claims that while in the middle of the fifteen months of treatment she began having horrific memories. The memories involved her being raped on multiple occasions, having multiple personalities, and participating in satanic rituals. They were so strong that at one point she tried to commit suicide. The plaintiff lived full-time at the involved facility during certain parts of her treatment.
The victim claims that she only recovered when she discovered that all of those memories were of events that never actually occurred. She claims that she eventually discovered that the memories were actually implanted by the psychologist during the hypnosis sessions. According to the malpractice lawsuit, the woman claims that the doctor implanted the memories in an effort to keep her returning for more sessions and to run up the bill which ultimately totaled more than $650,000. While the claim seems difficult to believe, the attorney for the woman explained that there are other victims with similar stories who are also considering coming forward. Interestingly, several of these other potential victims also were convinced that they had participated in satanic cults. Like the plaintiff in this case, they were also supported in their stays at the facility through insurance companies that paid for the costs of their long-term care for eating disorders.
These “repressed memory” cases are not without precedent. More often than not they involve repressed memories of child abuse. Usually these cases are highly dependent on the testimony of experts, because it is difficult for most community members to fully understand how memory works and whether or not these claims are true in any given situation. Often there is disagreement between experts on these unique aspects of memory. Yet, most professionals do agree that individuals can have memories of things that did not occur and that suggestion can play a key role in producing those memories. Our Chicago injury lawyers have worked with many experts over the years, as virtually all cases of professional malpractice demand their use. Considering that the issues in professional malpractice cases are by their name steeped in the conduct of those with expertise in an area, it requires other experts to explain the issues and verify their reasonableness or unreasonableness.
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