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October 8, 1999, Friday, PM cycle

Medical license of ‘satanic ritual abuse’ pioneer suspended for two years

BYLINE: By MARTHA IRVINE, Associated Press Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 707 words


The medical license of an Illinois psychiatrist who allegedly used drugs and hypnosis to convince a former Iowa woman that she was a high priestess of a satanic cult has been suspended for two years, state officials said Thursday.
Dr. Bennett Braun – once considered a pioneer in the treatment of multiple personality disorder – agreed to the suspension and five additional years of probation in a settlement with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.
Braun, 59, had been scheduled to appear before regulators to defend his license next month. The settlement was approved by the department’s medical disciplinary board on Wednesday.
During the seven-year period of suspension and probation, Braun will not be allowed to treat anyone with multiple personality disorder, also known as dissociative identity disorder.
“This is a very good agreement. Certainly it’s designed to protect the public,” Tony Sanders, a spokesman for the department, said Thursday.
Braun and his lawyer, Harvey Harris, did not return messages Thursday from The Associated Press. A spokeswoman at Rush North Shore Medical Center in Skokie, Ill., where Braun used to work, said officials there would have no comment on the settlement.
The state’s case against Braun centered largely on the treatment of Patty Burgus, whom Braun diagnosed with multiple personality disorder in the late 1980s. Burgus, who’s originally from Des Moines, now lives in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Since then, he has settled civil claims filed by Burgus and at least one other patient for millions of dollars. Other cases are pending.
In a deposition given for Burgus’ civil case, Braun admitted he did not get written informed consent to hypnotize Burgus and did not tell her about the potential effects of the drugs she was given, sometimes in much higher than recommended doses.
Those drugs included Inderal, a heart medication that can cause severe hallucinations, and sodium amytal, a potentially lethal drug known informally as “truth serum” that some doctors associate with brainwashing.
Burgus’ lawsuit claimed Braun used the drugs and hypnosis to convince her that she possessed 300 personalities, ate meatloaf made of human flesh and served as high priestess of a satanic cult.
Charges against Dr. Elva Poznaski, another Rush psychiatrist, were dropped after Poznaski agreed earlier this year to testify against Braun. Poznaski treated Burgus’ sons, John and Mike, for multiple personality disorder. The boys, now teen-agers, were hospitalized for nearly three years.
Even when the five-year probation is up, Braun will have to reapply for his license and provide evidence that he deserves to be taken off probation, Sanders said. Braun also must pay a $ 5,000 fine, attend 20 hours of medical training each year while on probation and cannot supervise other doctors or medical professionals while on probation, according to the agreement.
If he applies for a job after the suspension ends, he must provide prospective employers with a copy of the settlement agreement and must provide the state with quarterly reports about the nature of his practice.
“He’s probably going to have a hard time (ever) working in Illinois,” Sanders said, adding that the suspension would be added to a national database that is available to other states.
Dr. Richard Kluft, a psychiatrist in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and longtime friend of Braun’s, did not return a message Thursday. However, in January he defended Braun in an interview with The Associated Press.
“Dr. Braun has made profound and important contributions,” Kluft said. “And I think he’s caught in a real tidal wave of backlash.”
That backlash, he said, was against the idea of repressed memories and “satanic ritual abuse,” thought to be a clandestine and widespread network of devil worshippers who had been torturing people for centuries
Burgus said she was relieved by the suspension, mostly so her sons would not have to testify at Braun’s regulatory trial.
“But this is not the sort of victory you celebrate. There are people I was hospitalized with who are dead. There are people who have not recovered their minds,” Burgus said Thursday.
“At least for a while, we’re able to keep other people safe.”