HELENA (AP) – A psychiatrist who was disciplined in Illinois for allegedly using drugs and hypnosis to convince a family it was involved in satanic and cannibalistic cults has resumed his medical practice in Helena.
Dr. Bennett Braun, who said two years ago that he was fed up with his profession and would not return to it, received his state physician’s license in June and began soliciting patients Oct. 1.
The former Chicago-area doctor 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 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.
Braun, a popular target for the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, has consistently denied those accusations.
But his malpractice insurer agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement, and Braun has sued the company for $20 million, saying the deal was struck over his objections and in violation of his policy. Howard Brinton, Braun’s attorney, said the case is before an Illinois appellate court.
The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation filed a nine-count complaint against Braun that led to his license suspension. The complaint accused him of “dishonorable, unethical and unprofessional conduct.”
Braun said he didn’t contest his license suspension and $5,000 fine because he was exhausted financially, emotionally and physically. He said he spent about $500,000 to initially fight the disciplinary case.
In May 2000, Braun took an administrative job at Helena’s Shodair Hospital, which treats children with psychiatric and genetic disorders. Although some employees claimed in July 2001 that he was treating patients, Braun and the hospital administrator denied the allegations.
Braun asked the state Board of Medical Examiners to investigate the matter. In February 2002, a screening panel of board members unanimously found no evidence that he was practicing medicine without a license and dismissed the matter.
Seven months later, the full board unanimously agreed to issue Braun a Montana physician’s license upon successful completion of a test required to prove his medical competency after more than two years of not practicing. Braun passed the exam and his license was issued June 26.
Dr. Lawrence McEvoy of Clancy, a former Board of Medical Examiners member who supported Braun on both votes, said he cannot remember details of the case but is confident that the decisions were correct.
“If I made the motion (to grant the license), I was very comfortable that things were cleared up and looked into sufficiently so that I was comfortable he was not a danger to the people of Montana,” McEvoy said.
Braun, 63, said the investigation was far more extensive than the one conducted by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.
Braun left his job as clinical director at Shodair in August 2001 and has since worked fighting wildfires. His Illinois license was reinstated in October 2001, and Braun is on probation status in that state.
However, Braun said he plans to stay in Montana and sent out a letter to area doctors announcing his practice, but making no mention of past problems.