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Therapists Worry Memory Trial Might Hamper Their Work

May 13, 1994

NAPA, Calif. (AP) _ Jurors debated Thursday whether two therapists planted false memories of child abuse in a teen-age patient, while other therapists worried that the trial might hamper their work.

Jurors completed their first full day of deliberations in an $8 million lawsuit filed by former winery executive Gary Ramona.

Ramona, 50, accuses two therapists and a hospital of destroying his career, his marriage and his life by twisting his daughter’s childhood medical problems into memories that he raped her.

He has never been charged in criminal court and he denies the allegation.

The jury heard seven weeks of testimony before receiving the case Wednesday.

Some therapists said they are troubled by the court’s decision to allow a third party, the father, to sue for malpractice.

″If the therapists have to be concerned with how they provide treatment because some third party is going to come sue them it makes it very difficult to do good therapy,″ said Mary Riemersma, executive director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

″You get caught up in what you need to do to protect yourself legally and your primary concern then is not the patient,″ she said.

The case also has questioned the validity of recovered memories - previously suppressed memories of child abuse that are recalled in adulthood. But most professionals agree that the jury verdict is unlikely to resolve those questions.

″It has only a partial correlation to the scientific debate,″ said Dr. Alexander Pope, a Harvard University expert on sex abuse whose partner testified for Ramona. ″A great deal of their deliberations are based on their impressions of the personalities of the players involved.″

Holly Ramona, now 23, was a college student seeking help for the eating disorder bulimia when she started therapy in 1990. Soon after, she began having ″flashbacks″ of abuse between ages 5 and 8, later extended into her teens.

She eventually accused her father of molesting her. Ramona’s wife immediately filed for divorce, and Ramona later lost his $400,000-a-year job at the Robert Mondavi Winery.

Ramona’s lawyer, Richard Harrington, argued that Ms. Ramona’s ″flashbacks″ of rape could have been memories of a urinary tract examination she underwent at age 6.

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