Why a forensic psychiatrist?

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We had a power outage for several hours last night 🙁  Today the oil tank is being replaced and furnace cleaned so furnace off all day.  Thankfully it’s not too terribly cold out yet 🙂

My desktop computer was still running when the power went off last evening.  I thought I had saved everything I had been working on prior to the outage.  Not so.  So I was off hunting for links and articles all over again.

Anyway, here is the info I have put together on Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn,  a forensic psychiatrist identified in  the Saburo Kagei letter of 18 November 2014 as one of four member of the St. Mary’s International School panel  who are to conduct an inquiry into “the reported incidents” of abuse at SMIS


Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D

According to the CV provided by Mr. Kagei

 Dr. Harold J. Bursztajn, a graduate of Harvard Medical School and Princeton University and a forensic psychiatrist with a long-standing special interest in the prevention of sexual harassment and abuse in educational institutions. Dr. Bursztajn consults regularly with health and law professionals regarding victim witness interview methods and analyses.

I was puzzled at the inclusion of a forensic psychiatrist on the SMIS panel.  Granted I have no idea as yet what the terms of reference of the inquiry are, but it just struck me as odd that SMIS has decided to include not only a psychiatrist, but a forensic psychiatrist at that, on its panel.

For what purpose?

Why a forensic psychiatrist?

I admit I am skeptical.  Red flags.

I would say with just cause.  I am, however, always happy to learn that my skepticism was or is ill-founded.

My last ‘direct’ exposure to a forensic psychiatrist was at the child porn trial of Canada’s now disgraced, convicted and since defrocked Bishop Raymond Lahey.

I say “direct” only in the sense that I had the misfortune to sit in the courtroom while Dr. John Bradford testified at the Lahey sentencing hearing.   On 21 December 2014 I blogged “The Bishop’s porn.”  http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/2011/12/21/the-bishops-porn/

Those who are interested in pursuing details further can follow the link.  If you want to know the mindset of at least one forensic psychiatrist, follow the link.

I will tell you that what distressed me most was the fact that Dr Bradford seemed to have no problem at all with Bishop Lahey’s behaviour.    None.  Bishop Lahey had 35 videos, a number of which depicted boys of various ages – some as young as six – performing various sex acts .  Bishop Lahey had stories which constituted child porn.  And Bishop Lahey had pictures of teenage boys involved in bondage or torture.

It didn’t fizz Bradford.  Not one little bit.

I know the fact that Lahey was at that time a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church was inconsequential to Dr. Bradford.  Perhaps that is fair enough?  But should any decent man be viewing such such smut?

I think not.

According to Bradford, Lahey denied having sex with children when he, Lahey, travelled to places such, as Thailand, – places known for the sex tourist trade.   Lahey denied.  That was it.  Lahey denied having sex with children on his travels, therefore Lahey did not have sex with children on his travels, therefore Lahey  is not a paedophile.

Not only did Bradford conclude that Lahey is not a paedophile, under cross-examination the forensic psychaitrist flatly refused to categorize Lahey as a paedophile, hebophile or ephebohile – and he thus concluded that there was no need of treatment of any kind!

With that in mind I set off to find out what I could about the SMIS inquire forensic psychiatrist.

Here is what I have found:

1.   The son of a Holocaust survivor Dr. Harold J Bursztan is listed as Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at both Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Cambridge, Mass and at Harvard Medical School

2.   Dr. Bursztajn not only has special interest in prevention of sexual harassment and abuse multiple areas of special interest, he has multiple special interests.  He has  According to his online profile, the doctors special areas of interest include (and I will spell them all out as listed for the sake of those who prefer not to click in the link):

“… medical and psychiatric malpractice, psychiatric diagnosis, suicide prevention, sexual boundary violation claim evaluations, risk management consultation, boundary training, detection of malingering, pain impairment evaluations, informed consent, medication management standards, managed health care, psychiatric and forensic neuropsychiatric autopsies, testamentary capacity, diminished capacity, death penalty mitigation, and employment related issues such as ADA, disability, workers’ compensation, and sexual harassment.”

And further to that

Dr. Bursztajn’s litigation prevention services include both continuing education workshops and individual consultations. He has taught clinicians, judges, and attorneys on a variety of forensic topics, including evaluation of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and detection of medical and psychiatric malingering and misattribution, as well as a variety of clinical topics, including informed consent, assessment of suicide, pain management, psychopharmacology, the addictions, and the treatment of acutely and chronically mentally ill patients. He also consults widely to both public and private organizations including state and federal agencies, the courts, law firms, health care providers, educational institutions, and corporations.

 A litigation prevention service?  I realize that doesn’t offer much for those poor boys who molested at SMIS before the statute of limitations ran out in Japan.  And it is of no aid to those who can not legally attain justice because of the geographical dilemmas posed when a boy from country A, is molested by a religious brother from country B, and the sexual abuse transpired in country C tweny, thirty or more years ago.

But what if a religious brother from country B molested a boy from country C in country C, and country C has a statute of limitations and the abuse is recent? There are all sorts of what if here. are there not?

And what I wonder constitutes “medical and psychiatric malingering and misattribution”?

And what of of “evaluation of Post-traumatic Stress”?

3.     Dr. Bursztajn is listed as an expert witness on numerous sites, and so, for example, the doctor has added his name to the SEAK Expert Witness Directory and has identified his  specialities and experience as follows:

Independent Medical Psych. Evaluations, Forensic Psychiatry, Expert Opinion Formulation, Managed Health Care, Malpractice, Clinical Trials, Employment Issues, Organizational Consulting, Family & Custodial Issues. Harvard Medical School Sr. Faculty

4.   For those who like me are trying to sort out what exactly a forensic psychiatrist is, according to the Accredited Psychiatry and Medicine Medical and Psychiatric Experts website on a page committed to Bursztajn

“A medical expert is a physician who has the requisite clinical experience and academic achievement to form an objective medical opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. A forensic psychiatrist is a physician who integrates clinical experience, knowledge of medicine, mental health, and the neurosciences to form an independent, objective opinion. Relevant data are gathered and analyzed as part of a process of alternative hypothesis testing to formulate an expert medical/psychiatric opinion. This expert opinion can be effectively communicated by written report, deposition, or courtroom testimony. The applications of forensic psychiatry are widespread in settings ranging from health care and the workplace to criminal justice and public safety questions.”

According to that same site ,

“Employment issues, including worker’s compensation and disability law, supervisory negligence, workplace discrimination, and wrongful termination can benefit from a forensic neuropsychiatric evaluation. Such an evaluation begins with a review and analysis of medical records, depositions and supporting documents. Initial working hypotheses may be supplemented by a forensic psychiatric examination of the plaintiff or the insured. This process can result in the formulation of an expert opinion as to the validity, nature, and extent of the claims at issue. Areas of interest include risk factors for misdiagnosis, misattribution, malingering, or motivation for secondary gain.”

The question of course is, which is it?  Will Dr.Bursztajn conduct a forensic examination of the plaintiff or the insured?

And, yes, of course, the other question is:  will the inquiry process entail  entail the doctors  “expert opinion”  of the validity of the victims’ claims and in that context the  “risk factors for misdiagnosis, misattribution, malingering, or motivation for secondary gain”?

Further to that we learn that Dr. Bursztajn has been retained by both plaintiffs and defence:

“Forensic neuropsychiatric evaluation regarding reasonable accommodation claims and causation of emotional harm is among Dr. Bursztajn’s areas of special forensic interest. In this regard he has been retained by both plaintiff’s and defense counsel, and has advised the judiciary and psychiatrists in training.”

 And, also of interest

“Both true and false allegations of sexual harassment are made in the workplace. The presence or absence of psychological trauma is not enough to prove sexual harassment. False memories, desire for attention or revenge, and later reconsideration of consent can all lead to false allegations. At the same time, true allegations may not initially be considered credible. While a treating psychiatrist’s goal is to help alleviate the presenting emotional and psychological pain and trauma without necessarily determining the facts of the incident, a forensic psychiatrist is trained to objectively evaluate claims such as that of sexual harassment. Such an evaluation yields more accurate testimony regarding the grounds on which the claim of sexual harassment is made, and potential emotional and physical damages.”

Does the process for sexual harrasment relate to child sexual abuse?  I think it may?

Does this then mean that a forensic psychiatrist considers him/herself the only one qualified to determine the truth?

5.   In 1993 Dr. Bursztajn co-authored The Rebirth of Forensic Psychiatry in Light of Recent Historical Trends in Criminal Responsibility

 A quote:

For at the heart of the conundrum of forensic psychiatry is the tension between the legal system’s — and people’s — wish for simple answers, a wish the psychiatrist (like any other expert) must inevitably disappoint, and a more realistic appreciation of science as offering merely the deepest understanding possible under the circumstances. Once the naive belief in “exact” science is replaced by a more contextual notion of what scientific knowledge is, it becomes possible to appreciate the numerous ways in which forensic psychiatrists deploy this scientific and human understanding in both criminal and civil law.

And now,  scroll down to “The Changing Landscape of Forensic Practise” for the following comment on Sexual Harassment”:

Sexual harassment. The forensic psychiatrist contributes to the disposition of sexual harassment claims in two ways. The first is by assessing the credibility of witnesses, which may be impugned by a preexisting psychiatric condition or enhanced by prior success in treatment. When a possible false claim is at issue, the forensic expert can confront both parties with alternate scenarios and evaluate their responses. [39] The second stage is the determination of damages, which may be affected by the effects of prior emotional vulnerability or hypersensitivity.

 Is this what Dr. Bursztajn will be doing for SMIS?  I truly don’t know.

6.  Dr. Bursztajn was a co-author of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics 2008 publication Psychiatric Ethics and the Rights of Persons With Mental Disabilities in Institutions and the Community

 Scroll down to page 20 to read Case 3.  It’s only four pages.

True, the case deals with committing a convicted paedophile to a psychiatric facility because he is deemed a risk, however what I found of interest is the fact that the authors question why those who have committed sex crimes are treated differently than other convicted criminals, and in relation to the rest of the article I get the sense that perhaps the authors are slightly offended that paedophiles are discriminated against in such cruel fashion?

I wouldn’t say that such a scenario (into a Psych hospital from incarceration) is at all true here in Canada, but it may be so elsewhere?  Actually, when it comes to Canada I believe that paedophiles and all other classes of molesters are treated with remarkable leniency, tolerance and kid gloves, and I truly do have trouble imagining any paedophile in Canada being forced into a psychiatric institution to ensure that children are not placed at risk.   It may have happened, but I don’t believe it is the norm?   It may happen elsewhere in the world, and if indeed such is the case I for one applaud those who place the safety and security of children above the “rights” of a convicted paedophile.

I will leave it at that.

Oh yes, there is the 03 April 2013 letter which Dr. Bursztajn co-authored regarding sex abuse at the prestigious the prestigious college preparatory Horace Mann School in New York.

I can find no indication that Dr. Bursztajn became involved in an inquiry at the school.

At the end of the day the burning questions for me are:

  • What role will Dr. Bursztajn play at the up-coming SMIS inquiry?
  • Who decided that a forensic psychiatrist should be part of the SMIS inquiry team, and why?

Enough for now,


This entry was posted in Accused or charged, Brothers of Christian Instruction, Canada, Non clerical RC sexual predators, Raymond Lahey, Scandal and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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