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Report: Rice Diet doctor admitted to whippings in depositions

October 20, 1997

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Walter Kempner, known as the Rice Diet doctor, admitted in depositions before his death that he whipped patients who strayed from his famous diet, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Sunday.

``I was what one called strange,″ Kempner said in a deposition.

Kempner, who died last month at 94, was sued in 1993 by former patient Sharon Ryan, who claimed that the doctor turned her into his ``virtual sex slave″ for 20 years.

Kempner and Duke officials have denied Ryan’s claims, pointing out that there were no records of any sexual harassment complaints filed before the lawsuit.

The Germany native convinced about 20,000 patients to give up salt and fat for a monotonous menu of rice and fruit. Actors Lorne Greene, Buddy Hackett and Shelley Winters and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stanley Reed were among his celebrity clients.

In the depositions taken in the case, Kempner admitted to whipping patients.

``I have whipped people in order to help them and because they say they want to be whipped,″ Kempner said.

Kempner also said Ryan gave him a riding crop and asked him to whip her because she had strayed from the diet.

Ryan had come to Kempner’s Duke University clinic to lose weight in 1970, when she was 20. Later that year, Kempner reprimanded her for gaining weight, ordered her to remove her clothes and whipped her with a riding crop, the lawsuit alleged.

According to the lawsuit, Kempner persuaded Ryan to drop out of college, moved her into a home he owned and hired her to work for the clinic. From 1970 to 1987, Ryan claimed, Kempner maintained a sexual relationship with Ryan by isolating her from the outside world.

Ryan’s lawsuit against Kempner, another Rice Diet doctor and Duke University is expected to come to trial next summer. She is seeking unspecified damages.

Al Rossiter, a Duke University spokesman, declined to comment Sunday on the depositions.

``I’m sure Duke’s position will come out in court as the case proceeds,″ Rossiter told The Associated Press. ``Since it is in litigation there is not too much more we can say.″

Duke University Medical Center learned as early as 1975 that Kempner had used a riding crop on several patients, the News & Observer said.

In a 1975 memo, Dr. William Anlyan, vice president for health affairs, said he told Kempner that he would have to leave the medical center, according to the report.

According to depositions from Anlyan and Dr. James Wyngaarden, the chairman of the department of medicine, Kempner never entered the medical center again. But the doctor kept a lab there until a hospital reorganization in 1985.

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