Newsday (New York)
Therapist, 89, Accused of Seduction
By Anthony M. DeStefano
January 30, 1988
She was in her thirties. He was her octogenarian psychiatrist. Was what they had together love or was it therapy?
That is the question to be answered in an unusual medical malpractice action now winding its way through State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Irene Miller, 37, of Manhattan, started the case last year when she sued her former psychiatrist, 89-year-old Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker.
According to court documents, she charged that he exploited their patient-doctor relationship by inducing her to have sexual relations with him under the guise of psychiatric treatment.
Hutschnecker has denied the allegations and recently tried to get the case thrown out on the grounds that the statute of limitations had passed. But in a decision published yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Dontzin refused to dismiss the case.
“Putting it another way, the answer to the question of whether it was ‘love’ or ‘therapy’ between the thirtyish lady and the octogenarian psychiatrist will have to abide the rigors of a trial,” Dontzin said.
Miller sought out Hutschnecker’s professional help in 1981 for psychiatric treatment three times a week, according to the papers. In her case, Miller alleges that Hutschnecker persuaded her to give up her $ 34,000-a-year job as an executive secretary to the president of a corporation and move in with him at his Park Avenue office and apartment so she could serve as his secretary and “bedmate” for $ 250 a week and continuing psychiatric care, Dontzin said.
Miller contends that Hutschnecker induced her into the arrangement because of her “difficulty with authority figures and playing on her low sense of self-esteem,” according to Dontzin’s opinion. According to Miller’s court papers, the arrangement ended in October, 1986, when she came under the care of a different psychiatrist.
“It was a Svengali thing,” said Charles Kramer, Miller’s attorney.
Hutschnecker, who also said he once served as a regular physician to former President Richard Nixon, said in a telephone interview that Miller “abused his trust.”
Dontzin said that Hutschnecker’s claim that his therapeutic relationship with Miller ended in July, 1984 – and therefore outside the statute of limitations for malpractice suits – must be decided at trial.
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