November 2, 1997 in City

Lawsuit Claims False Memories Woman Says Hospital Counselor Led Her To Believe She Was Follower Of An Evil Cult

By The Spokesman-Review
 

She thought she had helped torture and kill people and animals as part of a satanic cult.

Robin Avis also thought she had given birth to a stillborn baby. The baby was supposed to be sacrificed but was instead fed to dogs.

She now thinks her former counselor gave her false memories, through hypnosis and suggestion.

Avis is suing that counselor, John Laughlin, and the Chelan hospital where Laughlin still works.

“Looking back on this, it does seem really incredible that she believed all this,” said Michael Bolasina, the lawyer representing Avis and her husband, Michael. “But she did.”

Laughlin was on vacation Friday, and neither he nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

Lake Chelan Community Hospital lawyer Clarke Johnson said the hospital isn’t at fault.

“We did absolutely nothing wrong,” said Johnson, adding that a number of mental health professionals had diagnosed her as having multiple personalities before she came to Chelan.

Avis, 38, first sought treatment for depression from Laughlin in September 1991, when he was employed at Enumclaw Medical Center in Enumclaw, Wash.

She was a homemaker caring for her 1-year-old son and had been depressed for years.

Over the next two years, Laughlin altered Avis’ memories and coerced her into believing she was the lifelong victim of an “intergenerational satanic cult” that physically and sexually abused her, the lawsuit states.

Her mother belonged. Her friends belonged. Even her husband might have belonged, the suit claims.

Avis charges that Laughlin caused her to believe that she helped sacrifice both people and animals. She started to believe that her Jehovah’s Witness church had been infiltrated by the cult.

Laughlin also convinced Avis that she had 30 multiple personalities living in her called “alters,” the lawsuit states.

These personalities all had names, like Bad Girl, Persecutor, Princess and Jill. They all did nasty things, from torture to sexual degradation.

Avis said she fell more and more under Laughlin’s spell. She started seeing him more and more, eventually going to his office four or more times a week.

Avis maxed out her husband’s insurance coverage. Michael Avis had to get a second job, working as a night clerk at 7-Eleven, to pay for his wife’s counseling, Bolasina said.

Laughlin convinced Robin Avis to flee her family on days he called “holidays” from the satanic cult, the lawsuit states. She was supposed to check herself into a motel.

“During the time she received treatment from him, she became more and more emotionally disturbed,” Bolasina said. “She got to the point where she was totally dependent on him and totally suspicious of everyone else in her life.”

In January 1993, more than a year after Avis first went to Laughlin, he moved to Lake Chelan Community Hospital. He followed Avis, who had already moved there, leaving her husband and child about 150 miles behind in King County.

Avis had admitted herself into the hospital before Laughlin started working there, the lawsuit said.

She lived in Wenatchee and drove to the Chelan hospital for treatment. She was hospitalized four times while she lived there, Bolasina said.

At the end of the year, Avis stopped counseling because she could no longer afford it, Bolasina said.

She moved back in with her family in 1994 and started going to a new counselor, he said. The family now lives in Tacoma.

Avis initially sued the Enumclaw hospital, Lake Chelan Community Hospital, Laughlin and other defendants in King County Superior Court in January. The hospital was separated from that lawsuit because it’s in a different jurisdiction.

On Oct. 17, Avis sued the Lake Chelan hospital and Laughlin in Chelan County.

It’s not the first time Laughlin has faced misconduct complaints.

He’s been charged by the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission with unprofessional conduct.

In that complaint, Laughlin is accused of making a 30-year-old woman think she’d been sexually abused in a satanic cult. His physician’s assistant license could be yanked at a public hearing in February.

Laughlin has disputed those charges.

Two years ago, he settled a lawsuit with that client for an undisclosed amount of money.

Another complaint was filed against Laughlin last year with the state medical commission. Further information was not available.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

OTHER CHARGES

Two years ago, John Laughlin settled a lawsuit with a 30-year-old woman for an undisclosed amount of money. She accused him of making her think she’d been sexually abused in a satanic cult. He disputed the allegations, but the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission charged him with unprofessional conduct. He could lose his physician’s assistant license at a public hearing in February.

This sidebar appeared with the story: OTHER CHARGES Two years ago, John Laughlin settled a lawsuit with a 30-year-old woman for an undisclosed amount of money. She accused him of making her think she’d been sexually abused in a satanic cult. He disputed the allegations, but the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission charged him with unprofessional conduct. He could lose his physician’s assistant license at a public hearing in February.


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