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April 23, 2012 / Ronald Chapman

For every death there will be a ripple of loss and grief

Kevin’s second call went to Dr. Arthur Burden, Director of the National Institute for the Study, Treatment and Prevention of Sexual Trauma in Baltimore. It was he who had testified as an expert witness in Davidson’s case. Burden’s assistant took the call, jotted down a few notes and assured Pitcairn that the doctor would call him back promptly.

He perused his outline again, made a few minor changes to it and e-mailed a copy to his editor at the Chronicle with a few comments and a request for his approval. With luck, he would talk to Dr. Burden today and complete his column before the end of the week. It could run the following week.

He leaned back in his chair and rubbed the heels of his hands on his closed eyes before sliding his hands behind his head and interlocking his fingers. A few minutes passed before the jangling of the telephone startled him.

“Pitcairn here.”

“Mr. Pitcairn, this is Dr. Arthur Burden. You called regarding Daniel Davidson.”

Pitcairn noticed that Burden spoke with obvious authority, but in a relaxed tone. The impression was quite different from that of Dr. Winter.

“Dr. Burden, thank you so much for calling. Do you know anything about a letter Davidson sent me?

“No, I’m afraid not,” came an immediate reply.

Pitcairn extended his legs and relaxed deeply into his chair as he described the letter to the psychiatrist. He concluded, “Dr. Burden, I intend to write a column about Daniel Davidson. Right now, it looks like it will be a somewhat sympathetic piece that poses the questions he has raised in his letter to me.”

“I’m delighted to hear that.”

“Why are you delighted?”

A measured silence followed, then a barely audible sigh. “When you’ve seen enough of these cases, you begin to realize that society needs to be shaken up a bit. While I can’t say I know Daniel all that well, I like him. Frankly, he is a textbook case. After his medication began he was utterly normal, or at least as normal as one could reasonably expect. I continue to be amazed by the results of proper diagnosis and treatment, and more than a little shocked that society refuses to consider the implications. It’s really an unfortunate and unnecessary tragedy.”

“Tragedy?” asked Pitcairn.

“Well … Daniel described it beautifully in his letter. He brutalizes women. He dies. Nothing is learned. So more will die, because Daniel is not alone in this and similar maladies. For every death there will be a ripple of loss and grief. That’s a tragedy.”


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