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Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Dr. Melvin Morse Child Abuse Case

     Dr. Melvin L. Morse, after earning his medical degree in 1980 from George Washington University, interned in pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Morse completed his residency in pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Seattle then set up a private practice in the city. The young doctor also held the position of Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington.

     In the late 1980s, through his nonprofit organization called The Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, Dr. Morse interviewed hundreds of children who had been declared clinically dead. These interviews led him to believe that children, too young to have been indoctrinated in religion and the belief in an afterlife, experienced near-death telepathic conversations and encounters with dead friends and relatives. (A manipulating interviewer of children who has an agenda can get them to believe anything.)

     Cashing in on the results of his interview results, Dr. Morse, in 1991, published his first book. Co-authored by a writer named Paul Perry, it was called Closer to the Light. The book made The New York Times bestseller's list for three months and was eventually published in 19 languages in 38 countries. An accomplished self-promoter with a good publicist, the new-age guru appeared on the Larry King and Oprah Winfrey shows.

     During the height of his doctor/feel-good-author fame, the pseudoscientist appeared on ABC's "20-20," NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries," and "Dateline," as well as "Good Morning America" and the "Tom Snyder Show." Dr. Morse was also the subject of dozens of uncritical articles in major newspapers and serious magazines.

     In 1992, in the midst of his fame, Dr. Morse and his co-author cranked out a follow-up book called Transformed by the Light. The second work didn't do nearly as well as Closer to the Light. The doctor and his co-author's last book, Where God Lives: The Science of the Paranormal and How Our Brains Are Linked to the Universe, came out in 2001. (The science of the Paranormal?)

     In 2012, the 58-year-old celebrity pediatrician lived with his second wife Pauline in Sussex, Delaware along with his five and 11-year-old daughters. (I don't know what prompted his move from the state of Washington to Delaware, or when that took place. I do know he had gone through a contentious divorce from his first wife.) A look at Dr. Morse's bizarre website ramblings about "big ideas" that had drawn people to him from all over the world suggested that he had lost contact with reality. (How does a highly educated pediatrician go from physician to the publisher of junk science in the first place?)

     On July 12, 2012, an incident involving Dr. Morse and his 11-year-old daughter marked the end of his credibility, even among his new-age followers. After pulling into his driveway that day, his daughter, for some reason, refused to get out of the vehicle. The doctor pulled her out of the car by the ankles and dragged her across the gravel into the house where he gave her a spanking. Later in the day, the daughter informed a neighbor of what happened to her. The neighbor reported the girl's story to the police.

     The following day local police officers arrested Dr. Morse. State child protection agents got involved in the case and took his daughters into protective custody.

     On Monday, August 6, 2012, Dr. Morse's 11-year-old daughter, while being questioned by officers with the Delaware State Police at the Child Advocacy Center, accused her father of subjecting her to what he called "water boarding." On at least four occasions, beginning in May 2009, Dr. Morse held her face under running faucets in the kitchen and the bathroom causing tap water to shoot up her nose. The abuse replicated the sensation of drowning. While Dr. Morse tortured the girl, her 40-year-old mother looked on. The accuser's 5-year-old sister reportedly informed police officers that she had witnessed the water boarding.

     A local prosecutor charged Dr. Melvin Morse and his wife with felony counts of reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of a child, and conspiracy to commit assault. Police officers took them into custody on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. After brief stints in the Sussex Correctional Institution, the couple made bail ($14,500 each) and was released.

     Attorney Joe Hurley publicly questioned the credibility of his client's 11-year-old daughter, suggesting that she might have made false accusations to get attention.

     Two days after the water boarding arrests, Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock announced that Dr. Morse presented a "clear and immediate danger to public health" if permitted to continue practicing medicine. The state official ordered the emergency suspension of his Delaware medical license.

     On April 11, 2014, Superior Court Judge Richard F. Stokes sentenced Dr. Morse to three to five years in prison. The judge denied a motion by Morse to remain free on bail while his attorney appealed his case. Dr. Morse said he was under treatment for prostate cancer. The judge sentenced the doctor's wife to probation.

     Dr. Morse was released from the Sussex County Correctional Institution in 2016. According to a corrections official, Morse had undergone a transformation in prison. Following his release, Dr. Morse co-founded The Recidivism Prevention Program, a company supposedly dedicated to assisting addicts and former inmates in the development of spiritual awareness that will facilitate their re-entry into society. (Here we go again. I predict another round of new age self-help books and TV appearances.)


1 comment:

  1. I followed Dr Morse during his heyday advocating life after death and was shocked when the allegations of child abuse surfaced. My understanding is he suffered finanacial hardship and a stressful divorce. He probably snapped in a psychiatric way.
    We all are human and mistakes and pitfalls do occur. He paid his due to society. He still made an admirable case for life after death, an expert in that field. The indian saying of do not judge another person unless you actually walked their path I believe holds true. He is not a Saddam Hussein or some crazy murderous dictator. I wish him well and hope his healing has taken him back to his supposed glory days. Obviously a bright, talented pediatrician that somehow got led astray. I am interested in where he goes from here. Not sure if he will be in the public eye.