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Jury Awards $2.5 Million to Patient in False Memories Case

August 1, 1995

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Vynnette Hamanne believed she was the victim of bizarre childhood sexual abuse involving satanic rituals, and that she had seen her grandmother stirring a cauldron of dead babies.

None of it was true, and a jury has ordered the woman’s psychiatrist to pay her $2.5 million for planting false memories in her mind.

Monday’s verdict against Dr. Diane Humenansky is the largest ever handed down against a doctor accused of implanting false memories, attorneys said.

In 1994, a California jury awarded $500,000 to a winery executive who said his life was destroyed when therapists gave his adult daughter false memories that he raped her as a child.

Attorneys for Hamanne said the verdict thoroughly discredits the repressed memory theory, which says a person can endure repeated abuse and not remember it until years later.

``I think the effect is a stunning warning to therapists ... and to insurance companies in that they had better start obeying the informed consent laws and stop using experimental treatments like recovered memory treatments on patients without their permission,″ attorney R. Christopher Barden said. ``This is a huge warning shot to them.″

``I’m really very glad it’s done,″ Hamanne said after the verdict, which followed a six-week trial. ``We’ll be glad to get on with the rest of our lives.″

Humenansky is the defendant in at least five other civil lawsuits alleging she traumatized patients by making them recall false memories of childhood sexual abuse. The patients allege she subjected them to an increasingly coercive program of mind-altering drugs, hypnosis and threats.

The Ramsey County jury also awarded Hamanne’s husband, Kenneth, $210,000 in compensation for loss of his wife’s companionship.

Humenansky referred questions on Tuesday to her personal lawyer, Phil Villaume, who did not represent her in the trial.

Villaume said she was ``very upset. She does not think the verdicts are a true and accurate depiction of what took place.″

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