Former Director of Israeli Psychiatric Hospital Accused of Sexually Abusing Suicidal Patient

A woman has filed a police complaint against the former head of Abarbanel hospital, who admits to having a ‘romantic relationship’ with her.

Yehuda Abarbanel Mental Health Center.
The Yehuda Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

A female patient at Abarbanel Psychiatric Hospital has accused the hospital’s former director of sexually abusing her while she was his patient.

Maya Berger, 27, wrote a letter to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman in November 2015, after filing a police complaint and a complaint to the ethics committee of the Israel Medical Association against Dr. Yehuda Baruch, 59. Last week the High Court of Justice lifted a gag order and allowed Baruch’s name to be made public as well as the fact that he was the psychiatrist who was the subject of a Channel 2 News report two months ago.

Shortly after Berger became pregnant from Baruch and underwent an abortion, Baruch was questioned by the police and admitted to a “romantic relationship” with Berger, however, he denied that she was his patient.

In her letter to Litzman, Berger wrote that in late October 2014, she was taken by the police to Abarbanel after a suicide attempt and noted that she trusted Baruch implicitly because he had been a friend of her parents for more than 40 years. She became dependent on Baruch as his patient, she wrote, adding: “My fear of losing him was stronger than anything I had ever felt in my life. To my shock, he exploited this dependency to have sex with me.”

Baruch told police that his relationship with Berger had been “between two consenting adults” and that Berger had filed her complaint because he wanted to end the relationship.

The file has been sent to the prosecution which informed the court that the case “was not yet ready for indictment and it would take a number of months” to complete the investigation.

By law, sexual relations between a practitioner and a patient during treatment and up to three years thereafter that exploits psychological dependence is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Haaretz has obtained documents that allegedly support Berger’s complaint that a therapeutic relationship prevailed between her and Baruch. For example, Berger, who is a sixth-year medical student studying in Hungary, told Haaretz that she had texted Baruch that she wanted an “arrangement of a weekly conversation” to which he responded “gladly.” He added that he would like to speak to her previous therapist, hence allegedly defining himself as her therapist. In one of Berger’s hospitalization reports, Baruch is listed as her physician of record.

Baruch had served for a decade as Abarbanel’s director and also head of medical cannabis administration in the health ministry. In November 2014 he voluntarily retired from Abarbanel following complaints about his management and problems connected to cannabis administration.

Attorney Galia Cohen, who is representing Baruch, said that Berger was “spreading lies and false complaints to the police, the health minister and initiating approaches to various media outlets.” Because the matter was under police investigation, Cohen said Baruch would not respond to the details of the accusations. However, Cohen said her client denied he had had a doctor-patient relationship with Berger.

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