Dr Melvin Morse, well-known for his research and books on the topic of near-death experiences in children, was arrested on Tuesday along with his wife, on charges related to the alleged 'water-boarding' of their 11-year-old daughter.
Morse was originally arrested last month after a neighbour reported he grabbed the 11-year-old girl, who is his step-daughter, by the ankle and dragged her across a gravel driveway, taking her inside to spank her. After being released on bail, he was arrested again this week after detectives interviewed the girl at the local Child Advocacy Center, where she had told them that her father had "disciplined her by what he called “waterboarding” — holding the daughter’s face under running water, causing the water to fill her nostrils and over her face", while her mother watched on.
The daughter told police she “could never understand what she did to be punished” and felt scared, court documents reported. Once, she said, her father told her he “was going to wrap her in a blanket and do it so that she could not move.” In another instance, she said Melvin Morse told her that “she could go five minutes without brain damage.”
“Melvin would sometimes look away while he did it and (redacted) would become afraid that he would lose track of time and she would die,” police wrote in court documents.
...After her father did these things, the girl said she would “go outside and cry,” prompting Melvin Morse to come outside and then “hold her nose and mouth with his hand,” police said in court records.
“He would tell her she was lucky he did not use duct tape,” police said in the documents. “He would not let go until she lost feeling and collapsed to the ground.”
The girl’s younger sister was also interviewed and told social workers she saw this happen to her sister, but that “it has never been done to her because she is too young for it.”
The Delaware Attorney General’s Office has since filed a motion for the emergency suspension of Morse’s medical license, while the children are now in the care of the Division of Family Services.
One leading skeptic, Ben Radford, has suggested that Morse's use of oxygen deprivation as a 'punishment' may have been an attempt on his part to induce a near-death experience in his step-daughter.
These charges, making news around the world, certainly throw a dark shadow over the pediatrician's pioneering work on near-death experience accounts by children, as recounted in books such as Closer to the Light.
Update: This Washington Post article quotes Morse's attorney as saying the daughter has previously made false reports about abuse (at that time, a half-sibling). Please remember this is still an untried case at this time, so it's difficult to come to many conclusions at this early stage.