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"Joker's" Psychiatrist - 2nd Damaging Revelation Strengthens Case Against University // "Flaky Druggie Shrink"?

30.07.2012 - 13:30

.It now turns out that, in addition to receiving a formal reprimand from the Colorado State Medical Board for abusing narcotics and other drugs, Dr. Lynne Fenton performed acupuncture on herself to prove that as little as four weeks of treatment enlarged her own breasts, and then charged over $1200 [in 2012 dollars] to treat other women - but only after warning them that failure to continue treatments would cause their breasts to shrink once again.

Lawyers for the victims, as they have in other similar cases, will probably sue any entity against which they can make a credible legal case, especially one which has the "deep pockets" necessary to pay the large medical costs and other damages, and which might be willing to settle to avoid the embarrassment of a trial. Colorado University is probably at the top of that list, says law professor John Banzhaf, far ahead of the movie theater, the company which sold the ammunition, or other possible civil defendants.

The plaintiffs' lawyers will probably charge that the University - and its special BETA program for predicting potential threats from students - was negligent and didn't even follow up and intervene after it knew that a student was leaving its prestigious graduate program, as well as losing his income and his residence. It's also now known that at least one member of the BETA team had additional information.

Plaintiffs' attorneys may also charge that the university psychiatrist treating the shooter, who is under a special legal duty to act if she should have known he presented a significant danger to others, failed in that duty, in part because the university apparently negligently delayed in delivering a notebook from the shooter which made his murderous intentions even clearer.

Under this theory, if the university had not been negligent in delivering the package allegedly spelling out Holmes' murderous plans, the entire horrible incident might have been prevented.

It now appears that the key individual under both legal theories, the university psychiatrist, who also played a major role in the BETA program, was officially reprimanded by the state for drug abuse - both for using and prescribing narcotic and other mind-altering drugs. This by itself could seriously undermine both her professional competence and her credibility as a witness.

Add to this the new revelation that she self-administered acupuncture treatments to enlarge her own breasts, and then sold the treatment, plus the mandatory followups to prevent the breasts from shrinking, and she could be portrayed as a "flaky druggie shrink" - exactly the kind of person the university probably would not want to have on the witness stand representing it.

In short, says Banzhaf, it can be argued that putting in charge of student mental health - an area in which drug abuse is a major factor - a doctor who herself admitted to using drugs, and also giving her a major role in threat assessment after she engaged in a questionable medical practice regarding self-administered acupuncture for breast enlargement, shows negligence by the university; something a jury eager to obtain compensation for the many innocent victims is likely to seize upon.

So, to avoid having all this come out at trial, Colorado University is likely to settle quickly and quietly - regardless of the legal strength of the case against it - to avoid the kind of embarrassment Penn State has suffered. That's exactly what happened when other universities were sued after school shootings, even where the legal cases weren't as strong as here, suggests Banzhaf.


Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
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