Delaware pediatrician charged with abusing daughter

DOVER, Del. — The daughter of a Delaware pediatrician who has appeared on national television for his research on near-death experiences told investigators he ‘‘waterboarded’’ her several times by holding her face under a running faucet.

A lawyer for Dr. Melvin Morse described the waterboarding description as an ‘‘attention-getter’’ by authorities, based on an allegation from an 11-year-old who had made a false abuse claim against a family member before.

‘‘Whatever’s being described is not waterboarding,’’ said Joe Hurley, who has not spoken to Morse since Tuesday’s arrests. ‘‘I think that’s an attention-getter. I’m not sure where that came from or how that developed.’’


Morse and his wife, Pauline, were charged with several felony counts Tuesday based on the daughter’s claims.

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Acting upon a complaint by the Delaware attorney general’s office, state officials on Thursday ordered the emergency suspension of Morse’s medical license.

Waterboarding simulates drowning and it has been used in the past by US interrogators on terrorism suspects. Many critics call it torture.

Morse, who has written several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences, has appeared on shows such as ‘‘Larry King Live’’ and the ‘‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’’ to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of ‘‘Unsolved Mysteries’’ and in an article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Morse’s Web site is strewn with commentary about God, love, family, and death.


At the time of Tuesday’s arrest, Morse, 58, was out on bail on misdemeanor charges of assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

Those charges stemmed from a July episode in which authorities allege Morse grabbed the 11-year-old by the ankle and, as her 6-year-old sister watched, dragged her across a gravel driveway, took her inside the family’s home, and began spanking her.

When she was interviewed again Monday, the older girl told investigators that beginning in 2009, her father had disciplined her by what he told her was ‘‘waterboarding.’’

State Police said the girl was subjected to such punishment at least four times and that her mother witnessed some of the episodes but did not stop them.