Ex-psychiatric Hospital Chief Faces Charges of Sex With Patient

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Former head of a Tel Aviv-area psychiatric hospital Dr. Yehuda Baruch, May 29, 2014
Former head of a Tel Aviv-area psychiatric hospital Dr. Yehuda Baruch, May 29, 2014Credit: \ Moti Milrod

The former head of a Tel Aviv-area psychiatric hospital is to be charged, pending a hearing, with having sex with a patient. According to court transcripts, Dr. Yehuda Baruch admitted to having had “a romantic relationship” that included sex with Maya Berger, who is now 29, when Baruch was the director of Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam. He claimed, however, that they did not have a doctor-patient relationship, “in particular not during the time of the affair.”

Berger said Sunday, after the decision to prosecute was announced, “It’s very moving that after a Sisyphean investigation by the authorities, truth and justice are coming to light.”

Berger filed complaints against Baruch in 2015 with the police and the Israel Medical Association’s ethics committee, and sent a letter to Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Berger claimed Baruch exploited her therapeutic dependence on him after she tried to kill herself. She said the doctor-patient relationship continued for nine months before they had full sexual relations. A month before she filed the complaint, Berger discovered that she was pregnant with Baruch’s child, and had an abortion.

In her letter to Litzman in November 2015, Berger said she and Baruch met in October 2014. He was the director of Abarbanel, to which she was admitted after trying to take her own life. She said Baruch had been a medical-school classmate of her parents and the three had remained friends for years.

“He examined me and after two days let me out for a home visit,” she wrote.

“After I was hospitalized he took me on as a patient for therapy. I trusted him blindly; I was confident he wanted what was good for me and to rehabilitate me emotionally.”

Baruch and his lawyers claim he and Berger never had a doctor-patient relationship. Documents obtained by Haaretz, however, point to just such a relationship. These include a text message in which Berger asked Baruch to “arrange a weekly conversation between us,” to which he responded “with pleasure,” adding that he wanted to speak to her former therapist.

In November 2014 Baruch left Abarbanel by mutual agreement with management, after harsh criticism of his administrative performance and problems related to his leadership of the Health Ministry’s medical marijuana program, which he founded. The police investigation of Berger’s complaint began after he left Abarbanel.

Until last year Baruch continued to sit on National Insurance Institute medical committees despite the investigation. The Health Ministry never took action to suspend him, although it had the authority to do so. The NII director looked into the matter and decided to continue employing him.

Baruch said in response: “Since I wanted to sever the romantic relationship between myself and Ms. Berger — a consensual relationship between two adults that was conducted with the knowledge and approval of Ms. Berger’s parents — Ms. Berger made it her goal to harm me in every possible way. She did this by spreading lies, false complaints to the Israel Police, a false complaint to the Health Ministry and by means of appeals to journalists in various media outlets, exactly as she had threatened to do on the eve of the severing of our relationship.

“I want to stress that between me and Ms. Berger there was never a therapist-patient relationship because I was never Ms. Berger’s therapist,” Baruch said, adding that his lawyer had not yet received the details of the charges pending against him.

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