DOVER - Delaware State Police arrested a Georgetown pediatrician and his wife Tuesday on charges that they endangered the welfare of their children by using physical discipline that included "waterboarding."
In the wake of the arrest of Dr. Melvin L. Morse, 58, the state Attorney General's Office Wednesday sought an emergency suspension of his medical license. Dr. Morse saw patients once a week at Scott Pediatrics on Federal Street in Milton, but left the practice in May to spend time with his mother, according to lawyer Jeff Austin, who represents Dr. Lowell Scott.
Dr. Morse and his wife, Pauline, 40, were charged after investigators learned of at least four occasions of "waterboarding," in which the father allegedly placed their 11-year-old daughter's face under a faucet, said Delaware State Police spokesman Master Cpl. Gary E. Fournier.
The investigation first began July 12, police said, when a neighbor called police and reported that Dr. Morse grabbed his 11-year-old daughter by the ankle and dragged her across a gravel driveway at their residence and then began spanking her inside the house.
Master Cpl. Fournier said the victim suffered scrapes and scratches and minor bruising.
Dr. Morse was arrested on July 16 on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of third-degree assault, and released after posting $750 secured bail.
In a subsequent interview with detectives at the Child Advocacy Center on Monday, the 11-year-old said that in a two-year period, beginning in May 2009 and ending in May 2011, she was disciplined by her father in a practice he called waterboarding, which state police described as holding her face under a running faucet causing the water to go up her nose and all over her face.
Police said the victims' mother Pauline had witnessed some of the incidents and did not attempt to stop them.
Their 5-year-old daughter was not subjected to the alleged abuse, police said, but did witness some events.
"She was not given that treatment but she did witness her sister receiving the form of punishment, which makes her a victim as well," Master Cpl. Fournier said.
Both parents were charged with four counts of felony first-degree reckless endangering, felony second-degree conspiracy and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
The couple was arrested on those charges Tuesday at their home in the 20000 block of Lewes-Georgetown Highway and arraigned at Delaware State Police Troop 3, and ordered to have no contact with their children or each other. Dr. Morse was incarcerated at Sussex Correctional Institution in default of a $14,500 secured bond, and his wife posted a $14,500 unsecured bond and was released.
The children are in the care of Division of Family Services.
Status of medical license
Master Cpl. Fournier said police contacted the state Office of Professional Regulations regarding Dr. Morse's arrest.
Though records list Dr. Morse's practice at 611 Federal St. in Milton, attorney Mr. Austin said he is no longer seeing patients there and hasn't since before the July arrest.
"Dr. Scott has no first-hand knowledge about the allegations," Mr. Austin said. "Prior to the arrest (Dr. Morse) had been working there once a week for approximately two and a half years. He had not been working for Dr. Scott since May of 2012."
"To comment further would hinder the investigation," Mr. Austin said.
Dr. Morse has been licensed in Delaware since Feb. 6, 2007, and records show the state's Division of Professional Regulations has not taken disciplinary action against him since that time, said spokesman Christopher Portante.
On Wednesday, the state Attorney General's Office filed a motion for an emergency suspension of Dr. Morse's license. He has 24 hours to respond to the charges, and can appeal to the state's Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline President and Secretary of State. The license is still active until at least the 24-hour period expires.
Mr. Portante said patients of Dr. Morse should contact the medical practice for information about records if needed or any questions.
People with information about the case should call Delaware State Police Detective Jon King at 856-5850, ext. 208.
Dr. Morse was not affiliated with any of the four downstate hospitals or a member of the Medical Society of Delaware. Officials with Nanticoke Health Services, Bayhealth (which includes Kent General and Milford Memorial) and Beebe Medical Center said Wednesday he was not a part of their medical staffs.
The Medical Society of Delaware released the following statement late Wednesday, "Melvin Morse is not a member of the Medical Society of Delaware. If these allegations prove to be true, then this would be very alarming regardless of who committed such horrible acts. The welfare and well-being of the two children are what matter most, and our hearts go out to them."
‘NDE' researcher, author
According to the healthgrades.com website, Dr. Morse graduated from the George Washington University School of Medicine in 1980, and later graduated from the University of California at San Francisco in 1981 while serving an internship. His residency and fellowship hospitals were listed as "Childrens Hospital" with a 1986 graduation date.
Dr. Morse was listed as a pediatric specialist who is board certified. On the website vitals.com Dr. Morse's sub-specialty was listed as pediatric adolescent medicine.
Many Internet references highlight his research and knowledge about near-death experiences and he has been a guest speaker at events in Delaware on the subject.
On the website near-death.com, Dr. Morse was described in an undated passage as a practicing pediatrician and renowned researcher who for more than 15 years "has studied the (near death experiences) of hundreds of children as an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington.
"He has studied near-death experiences in children for 15 years and is the author of several outstanding books on the subject: Closer to the Light, Transformed by the Light, Parting Visions, his latest book, Where God Lives. He is primarily interested in learning how to use the visions that surround death to heal grief.
"The stories that children have told him about what it is like to die have lessons for all of us, especially those attempting to understand the meaning of death or the death of a child."
Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 741-8296. Follow him on Twitter @DSNAnderson.
News editor Ashley Dawson can be reached at email@example.com or 741-8233. Follow her on Twitter @ADawsonnews.