Shodair hires suspended psychiatrist

HELENA (AP) – A psychiatrist accused of using drugs and hypnosis to convince a family it was involved in satanic and cannibalistic cults insists that he won’t resume practice when his suspended license is restored in about two months.

“I’m fed up with medicine,” said Dr. Bennett Braun, an internationally recognized former Chicago-area psychiatrist now working at Shodair Children’s Hospital in Helena. “What’s happened to me is I’m living in Montana, I’m enjoying my life and I’d like to be left alone.”

Braun has taken an administrative job at Shodair, which treats children with psychiatric and genetic disorders. But the hospital administrator says Braun has no involvement with patients there.

“He has no direct patient care whatsoever,” said Jack Casey. “He’s not involved in any direct care at all. He’s not practicing medicine.”

Braun, 59, agreed to a two-year suspension of his medical license in October 1999 and five years probation after accusations by a former patient.

Patty Burgus and her children sued Braun. Burgus, a patient Braun diagnosed as having multiple personality disorder, claimed that the doctor used medication and hypnosis to convince her that she had 300 personalities, ate meatloaf made of human flesh and was a high priestess in a satanic cult.

He eventually settled her lawsuit for $10.7 million, but never admitted any of the allegations against him.

Two years later, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation filed a nine-count complaint against Braun that led to his license suspension.

He was accused of “dishonorable, unethical and unprofessional conduct.”

The complaint said Braun had hospitalized Burgus for two years and her two young sons for three years “for no medically justifiable reason.” In the process of treatment, Burgus came to believe imaginary episodes of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, human sacrifice and human torture, the complaint said.

Howard Brinton, Braun’s attorney, said that while his client insists that he doesn’t want to return to medicine, Braun wants his license back as a matter of “pride and vindication.”

Braun was a night watchman for a wood products company in Idaho for a year before getting his job at Shodair, Brinton said.

Braun acts as liaison between the hospital and insurance companies, supplying reports on diagnosis and treatment given insured patients.

Casey called it a “clerk-type job” and said Braun wouldn’t be offered another position at the hospital.

Casey said Shodair was aware of Braun’s past when it hired him a year ago.

Brinton said Braun makes about $28,000 a year, or about a tenth of his salary as a psychiatrist, Brinton said.

He has sued his attorneys, the insurance companies and their claims managers involved in the settlement, claiming the lawsuit was resolved over his objections. He is asking for $20 million in damages.

Copyright © 2001, Associated Press.