family wins $10.6 million settlement - November 1997
(The following story first appeared in the
Society's Nov. 1997 Newsletter)
On November 5, 1997, Pat Burgus and her family
had their first victory against two of their therapists and Rush-Presbyterian
St. Luke's Hospital here in Chicago. On that day the media reported a $10.6
million settlement (the largest ever in a recovered memory case) of a lawsuit
against the hospital and two therapists. These therapists were identified
by The New York Times, in a front page story, as Dr. Bennett Braun, director
of the trauma unit and Dr. Elva Poznanski, chief of child and adolescent
It had taken fifteen agonizing years to get to
this point. Pat's story had started with a horrible delivery which had
led to post-partum depression, a straight forward enough problem, it would
seem. Her first therapist induced the highly hypnotizable Pat to believe
instead that her problem was that she had 21 personalities. This "diagnosis"
led Pat to the Rush Dissociative Disorders unit headed by Dr. Bennett Braun.
The latter is considered one of the country's leading experts on multiple
personality and satanic ritual abuse (SRA). [By the early 90's he had treated
more than 100 patients diagnosed by him as having suffered from SRA.] He
had been co-founder and an early President of the International Society
for the Study of Dissociative Disorders.
As those of you who watched the 1995 Front line
show "The Search for Satan" may remember, Pat's case rapidly took on the
character of the darkest of dark Gothic novels once she entered Rush.
There, using a daily program of hypnotism and
high doses of medication, her therapists "recovered" her "memories": Pat's
rape on a satanic altar by her father and cult members; her participation
in the cannibalization of her own aborted fetuses and those of others (parts
of up to 2,000 people consumed); and the abuse of her own children. Pat
was supposed to have been a "high priestess" of the cult, in a national
and possibly even an international conspiracy existing for many generations.
And her personalities blossomed to number over 300 while she was under
Braun's care. Pat certainly became Braun's star patient, whom he paraded
at conferences and in the media. While all this was going on, Pat's young
children (ages 4 and 5) were also hospitalized for nearly three years at
Rush and sucked into the same bizarre "therapy". All in all these cases
cost the insurance company $3 million dollars. In 1993, after Pat, with
the help of her husband Mike, had extricated herself and her children from
this nightmare and realized what had been done to her, she filed her lawsuit.
By this time she had shed all but one of her 300 plus personalities.
There followed four years of arduous preparation,
agonized waiting and legal maneuvering. Witnesses and experts were deposed.
Those of Pat's side made up a stellar team of seven: Dr. Bennett Leventhal
(University of Chicago), Paul McHugh, M.D. (Johns Hopkins), James Hudson,
M.D. (Harvard University), Richard Ofshe, Ph.D. (University of California,
Berkeley), Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D. (University of Washington), William
Grove, M.D. (University of Minnesota), August Piper, M.D. Only two experts
were deposed on the other side. Obviously the evidence and expert testimony
piled up by these depositions convinced the insurance company that its
case was hopeless; otherwise it would never have agreed to such a large
Asked after her victory how she felt Pat said,
"There is still a lot of work undone… I have not done fighting. I intend
to pursue their [the therapists'] licenses. I will do whatever it takes."
The next chapter of this story has already begun.
On December 10, 1997 Chicago's Channel 5 in an excellent report on Pat's
lawsuit, in which Pat and Dr. Almy were interviewed, revealed that Rush
will be closing Braun's Dissociative Disorders unit by January 16, 1998.
More wonderful news! Also the Burgus case will be featured in articles
in Readers Digest and Chicago Magazine and in a segment of "Dateline" that
is supposed to air this January. Nor is Pat finished with her own litigation.
Cases against two other therapists are not yet concluded. And of course
there are lawsuits by other former patients against the hospital and the
therapists still in the wings - six of them at the moment. [This number
had swelled to eleven against Bennett Braun by December 1999.] Unfortunately
another two cases have already been settled but with gag orders.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out that Pat
strenuously resisted any settlement that would tie her hands or gag her
except in the most token of ways. She rightly saw her lawsuit as part of
a larger cause which would only be properly furthered by the widest publicity.
We hope most other recanters will follow her example. They owe it to the
cause, and to the rest of us.
settlement - May 1998
(The following is part of an article from the
Society’s Aug. 1998 Newsletter)
In May 1998 Dr. Bennett Braun, Rush Presbyterian
Hospital and many other defendants agreed to another settlement with an
ex-patient. This time it was won by Illinois resident Mary Shanley. This
makes at least the fourth recovered memory therapy settlement that Bennett
Braun has agreed to in the last couple of years. There are likely to be
many more, since there are about nine other recovered memory therapy lawsuits
against him that are not yet settled. Attorney Zachary Bravos would only
say (as he did in our May 1998 conference): "The parties are satisfied
with the settlement", but, by its terms, cannot disclose the amount. This
editor interprets this statement to mean that the settlement was a big
one, in view of the $10 million Pat Burgus settlement (a very similar case
against the same principal defendants) and other settlements around the
country in like cases.
If you saw Frontline's 1995 "The Search for Satan"
you will probably remember Mary Shanley. In 1988 she came to therapist
Karen Graneay for treatment of depression. Within a year Graneay was treating
her for MPD instead and by 1990 she had Mary at Rush under Bennett Braun
and Roberta Sachs. Later she was transferred to a Texas hospital. In these
places Mary recovered "memories" of having been part of a satanic cult
of horrific proportions similar to the one that Pat Burgus had supposedly
been part of. This hospital stay lasted until 1993… Mary's complicated
case started in Federal court in Texas and then was shifted to Illinois.
Zachary Bravos and Texas attorney Skip Simpson shared the legal work. After
endless depositions of witnesses and experts, the defendants caved in and
agreed to settle. Clearly the defendants concluded (as they had in the
Burgus case) that they could not win. In another victory for Mary, the
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has completely and
voluntarily expunged her record. They had originally put her on record
as a child abuser.
Civil cases in which Baun
is involved as of Sepember 1999
Braun named in criminal prosecution,
Sep.1998 - March 1999
In a federal criminal trial in Houston of four therapists and
a hospital administrator, Bennett Braun was named as an unindicted co-conspirator,
along with Roberta (Bobbie) Sachs and Dr. Corydon Hammond. The trial was
almost complete when a mistrial was called by the judge because, owing
to the length of the trial, so many jurors and alternates had been excused
for personal reasons that the jury was reduced to eleven people.
The trial could have continued if both sides had agreed, but the defendants
refused to do so. The government did not seek a new trial because
it did not wish to subject all their witnesses (many of them frail) to
the agony of reliving their horrible experiences a second time on
the stand. Mary Shanley and many other recovered memory victims testified
during the trial.
sought by Illinois - Nov. 1998
(The following is from the Society's Nov. 1998
Dr. Braun "misused the course of treatment
of multiple personality disorder the way a surgeon misuses a knife…The
problem here is that someone with an inordinate amount of trust, who was
caring for extremely fragile and susceptible psychiatric patients, misused
both his prestige and his medical ability." These are the words of
Thomas Glasgow, chief of medical prosecutions for the Illinois Department
of Professional Regulation. The occasion was the filing of a nine-count
complaint against Braun that alleges gross negligence, dishonorable, unethical
and unprofessional conduct, making false or misleading statements, and
improper prescription of controlled sub stances. The last charge refers
to the use of irresponsible combinations of medications and the prescription
of Inderal at levels "that weren't even animal tested at the time." The
state wishes to strip Dr. Bennett Braun of his license and hearings on
the matter are now scheduled for November 9 before an administrative judge.
Braun, of course, has been sued by the Burgus family and by Mary Shanley,
with both of whom he has settled. At least three other patients have lawsuits
pending. Other patients who also say their lives were ruined by his methods
wish to add their testimony for the state's case.
Bennett Braun: the
Chicago psychiatrist Bennett Braun has come to the end of the road.
In early October of this year, poised to go to trial before an administrative
judge of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, he plea bargained.
(Our readers will remember our numerous previous articles on Braun, especially
in relationship to the Burgus case.) The terms of the pleas bargain are:
"It is going to be very difficult for him to seek employment in Illinois,"
said IDPR spokesman Tony Sanders. Tom Glasgow, who originally prosecuted
the case, was quoted as saying: "He's never again going to have the chance
to destroy someone's life like he has destroyed the lives of so many in
the past." It should be added, also, that with eleven civil lawsuits against
him, four or five settled and the rest pending, Braun is very unlikely
ever to get malpractice coverage again.
Braun's license is suspended for two years.
This suspension is to be followed by a probationary period of five years
during which he cannot treat any M.P.D. patients, supervise other physicians,
and during which he must show the disciplinary order to anyone who hires
In addition, he must undergo additional medical training during the probationary
He must pay a $5,000 fine.
To get off probation after 7 years, Braun, who is 59, must prove to the
Medical Disciplinary Board that he is no longer a danger to the public.
Pat Burgus, who was the most instrumental in bring Bennett Braun to
justice, summed it up the best when she said: "This is a strong message
to all the therapists who practice this way … this is wrong, you are going
to be punished, you're going to be sued. You don't use hypnosis to rewrite
No so long ago, Bennett Braun was regarded as one of the top national
authorities on multiple personality disorder and satanic ritual abuse.
He did much to spread the popularity of these "diagnoses" and trained many
others in the field.