Psychiatrist Whips Patients -
Fined Over Half A Million

From Jon Kelly

Dr. James Tyhurst once wielded a fair degree of power as the head of the UBC psychiatry department.
He was also a mean man with a whip, regularly lashing a trio of half-naked patients -- tormented women who had put their trust in his healing powers.
In a scathing judgment against the retired psychiatrist, a B.C. Supreme Court judge has found Tyhurst's treatment of Jill Gorman "was deplorable and defies all norms of civilized conduct between individuals."
Justice David Vickers ordered Tyhurst to pay damages of $556,790, ending another chapter in the bizarre story.
(Tyhurst twice stood trial in criminal court. One jury found him guilty of the sexual and physical assault of Gorman and another woman, when four former patients testified. Tyhurst won a new trial and was found not guilty in 1992 by another jury, when only two patients testified.)
Tyhurst, now 78 and living on Gabriola Island, has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Chris Hinkson, said yesterday he has spoken to Tyhurst, who intends to appeal Vickers' decision.
Gorman, now 42, was suffering from an eating disorder and had vague thoughts of suicide when she first went to see Tyhurst in September 1979, as she began her second year of university.
For the next eight years, she saw Tyhurst -- the University of B.C.'s head of psychiatry from 1958 to 1970 -- and other psychiatrists for treatment of her borderline personality disorder.
The disorder made her hunger for relationships, which were doomed to fail because of the high expectations she put on others.
The "therapy" Tyhurst prescribed involved whipping Gorman, after she had been told to strip to the waist.
The judge found two witnesses called by Gorman's lawyer were truthful in relating their whippings by Tyhurst, who made them enter into master-slave relationships as well.
Gorman and one of the other two women testified they suspected Tyhurst was masturbating while he whipped them, though they never saw any proof of it.
"While I am unable to conclude the acts of whipping were accompanied by the defendant masturbating, I have no difficulty in concluding his entire course of conduct and the bizarre 'therapy' in which he engaged was for his own sexual gratification," wrote Vickers.
The judge doubted Tyhurst's denial of any significance to the two letters entered in evidence, which Gorman said were master-slave contracts.
Tyhurst should have been alarmed at their contents, he said. Instead, the psychiatrist testified that patients "write all sorts of things" and dismissed them as trash.
Tyhurst mistreated Gorman so badly, the judge found, that he ruined her ability to trust others, including therapists and men, in general.
"The nightmare of his 'therapy' will live with her for the rest of her life," wrote the judge.
"No similar case has been cited to me where the abuse of a care-provider in a position of trust has been so appalling."

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