Angry Doctor

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hex, Lies, and Videotape

Fresh Brainz covered this story yesterday, and angry doc thinks it's worth a mention too:

Sick victim or slithering snake?
Lawyers give contrasting views on woman suing church over alleged exorcism
Leong Wee Keat

A FORMER national athlete who was strong and fit but whose health deteriorated after an alleged exorcism. A woman with a history of mental illness who may have met infamous murderer Adrian Lim, drinking his blood and entering into a trance together.

Such contrasting portraits of the same woman — 50-year-old Madam Amutha Valli — emerged on the first day of her civil suit against Novena Church over an alleged exorcism. Yesterday's hearing also drew vastly different accounts of what happened in the church on the night of Aug 10, 2004.

Mdm Valli is suing the church and eight people for damages arising from what she believes to be rites of exorcism. According to Mdm Valli, the alleged exorcism, performed by two Catholic priests with the help of seven church helpers — one of whom has migrated and against whom no charges will be pursued — had left her traumatised and unable to work.

Opening his client's case yesterday, lawyer R S Bajwa said this "is not a case against freedom of religion". Rather, this is about the imposition of a religious ritual on Mdm Valli, without checking her medical condition, he argued.

"We are not saying the defendants acted with malice or wicked intentions," Mr Bajwa said.

"They may have wanted to help the plaintiff. But what they did they should not have done ... they have caused damage to her."

But lawyer Tito Issac, acting on behalf of Novena Church and Father Simon Tan, one of the two priests, called Mdm Valli's allegations "unbelievable". He said Mdm Valli had been "slithering like a snake, shouting and screaming like Satan and marching like a soldier" before the alleged exorcism at the church.

Father Tan, who had been approached by Mdm Valli's family, had to help her in his duty as a priest to conduct a prayer session, argued Mr Issac.

Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim, who is defending Father Jacob Ong, the other priest involved, also described Mdm Valli's allegations as an "incredible story".

Mr Yim sought to draw parallels to what happened to Mdm Valli some 20 years ago. Between 1986 and 1989, he said, she had sought treatment at National University Hospital (NUH) for a psychiatric condition.

Mr Yim told the High Court that Mdm Valli's condition was so serious she had to be relieved from her job and compensated $30,000 by her telco industry employer.

He said evidence would be produced during the course of the civil suit that Mdm Valli had allegedly told a doctor she no longer was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts, barely a week after leaving the firm.

Calling her current allegations a part of "a well-hatched scam", Mr Yim urged the court to consider Mdm Valli's previous conduct. Two days after the alleged exorcism at the church, she had apparently remarked to doctors she felt the defendants "were all silly" and that she "(was) enjoying the stupidity of the situation".

Extended surveillance, conducted by private investigators for more than 1,000 hours, would also prove Mdm Valli was putting on a false front, said the defendants' lawyers.

Video footage recorded after the civil suit was filed showed that Mdm Valli was able to walk independently, and visit the gym and public bathrooms alone. She would only appear frail, weak and pale during her medical appointments, they argued.

Lawyer Anthony Lee, who is representing three of the church volunteers, also painted an unflattering picture of Mdm Valli. He said she had apparently met convicted murderer Lim — described in reports as a medium — twice in the early 1980s, drinking his blood and entering into a trance together. She even received electric shock treatment from Lim, Mr Lee said.

After her bout of mental and psychiatric disorders in the late '80s, Mdm Valli turned to alcohol in 1990, downing a bottle of gin a day, Mr Lee said. Ten years after she developed the habit, she suffered another breakdown and had to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health. She later developed another dependence in 2003 on a powerful sleeping pill, he added.

But Mdm Valli's daughter, Ms Subashini Jeyabal, testified that she "did not know" her mother had been battling alcoholism and health problems.

Mr Issac then suggested that the 22-year-old knew her mother had been drinking, but had "put on a brave front for the public eye".

Ms Jeyabal replied: "This is very far from the truth. I am here to speak the truth."

An ex-sports star, a murderer, demonic possession, mental illness, secret surveillance video, the occult, drugs, alcohol... a potent mix and a tabloid journalist's dream, but underneath all that a sick woman who probably needs help.

But what interests angry doc about this case, however, is the parallel he once again sees between medical malpractice, and unproven modes of treatment.

It seems that the priests, by undertaking the ('alleged') exorcism, have agreed to take on a duty of care to Mdm Valli. The plaintiff's lawyers are trying to argue that the priests are guilty of negligence, since the rite of exorcism should not have been performed, while the defendants' lawyers are trying to argue that no harm has actually resulted from the ('alleged') exorcism, and hence there is no case.

As we have discussed before, in order to decide whether the priests were right in performing the ('alleged') exorcism, we need to first prove that exorcism works. To even begin to consider exorcism, however, we need to first make the 'diagnosis' of possession.

How does one make a diagnosis of possession? It's probably not an easy diagnosis, and the church acknowledges that organic or mental illness should be excluded before proceeding with exorcism. (This makes exorcism a 'diagnosis of exclusion'. )

And of course, we all know that if a strange behaviour is not known to be cuased by an organic or mental illness, it must be due to demonic possession.

Or alien mind-control?

Or ghosts.

Yup, definitely ghosts.



  • That is a wicked online comic. Me likes!

    By Blogger Lim Leng Hiong, At October 25, 2007 5:33 pm  

  • Some are nice, but some... lack depth or subtlety.

    By Blogger angry doc, At October 25, 2007 5:40 pm  

  • Why is exorcism and the likes of it still allowed under the law? It's like this, the world over.

    Is it not an admission, no matter how 'scientific' we have become, there are things we don't know enough about, cannot remove, ignore and banish from human societies, however irrational it may seem to some?

    By Blogger George, At October 26, 2007 11:33 am  

  • I wouldn't say it is allowed as much as it is not explicitly forbidden, a subtle but nevertheless important difference.

    Anything not explicitly forbidden by the law is permissible, unless it also becomes certain things explicitly forbidden by the law, as is alleged in this case.

    I expect the judge in this case to rule that people are free to hold and practise any number of beliefs, but when they try to involve others in such practices without their consent, and/or that they harm other people by their practices, then the law may find them liable, rationality of the beliefs notwithstanding.

    In other words, I think irrational beliefs may survive contact with the law.

    Reality, on the other hand, is a tougher judge.

    By Blogger angry doc, At October 26, 2007 6:45 pm  

  • The defence is obvously trying to present a case of :-

    If there is an Indian and a snake, who do you kill first?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At October 26, 2007 10:20 pm  

  • I don't think so, although I think the title of the article may be a reference to that racist 'joke'.

    That is most unfortunate, because it is very likely that Mdm Valli is truly ill - nobody sets up a medical record trail of more than 10 years (and bears the attendant bill) and lose her job to gamble on an unsophisticated scam.

    You do presume too much though, in thinking that angry doc is not Indian.

    Or did you think angry doc is in fact Indian, but chose to post that comment anyway?

    By Blogger angry doc, At October 26, 2007 10:45 pm  

  • i would presume you do not believe in christianity. Clearly, these are the works or the devil. If you haven't yet noticed.

    Unless you claim to be a "free-thinker". I think you need help.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 01, 2007 3:38 pm  

  • Apparently the devil is 'botak and malay'. A question posed to all catholics/christians/anglicans/whatever----> What is a muslim doing in a church? Please, feel free to answer. Im sure all curious folks would like to know.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 02, 2007 7:22 pm  

  • If you follow the news logically and if common sense still can tell you she is innocent and not fabricating the whole thing. To the extent of saying 'she never give consent'. I really really don't know what to say.

    After that she might just say I never give consent to this case. The whole trial cause me a traumatic experienxce...whos to blame

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At December 02, 2007 8:15 am  

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