Former Seattle-area physician accused of waterboarding his daughter in Delaware

Dr. Melvin Morse is accused of waterboarding his 11-year-old daughter in Georgetown, Del. (Photo: Delaware State Police)

A Delaware doctor who had been named one of Seattle's top pediatricians from 1995-2007 were arrested earlier this week after their daughter told authorities she was punished by "waterboarding," police said.

The 11-year-old girl told police that her father, pediatrician Melvin Morse, would hold her face under a running faucet, causing the water to shoot up her nose, the Delaware State Police said.

The punishments happened at least four times over a two-year period and the girl's mother, Pauline Morse, witnessed some of them and did nothing, police said.

Morse specializes in near-death experiences in children and wrote a book about the subject called "Closer to the Light" in 1991.

"In hundreds of interviews with children who had once been declared clinically dead, Dr. Morse found that children too young to have absorbed our adult views and ideas of death, share first-hand accounts of out-of-body travel, telepathic communication and encounters with dead friends and relatives," a reviewer wrote about the book.

Morse was also interviewed by CNN's Larry King about the subject, and he runs a nonprofit organization called The Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness.

Authorities were first alerted to allegations of abuse in July when they went to Morse's home in the city of Georgetown.

Morse was accused of grabbing his 11-year-old daughter by the ankle, dragging her across a gravel driveway into the home and spanking her, police said. Morse was arrested at that time and posted a bond.

During a police interview with his daugher, the girl spoke about other alleged abuse and talked about a punishment she said her father called "waterboarding," the Delaware State Police said.

Morse and his wife were arrested Tuesday. Both face charges of reckless endangerment, conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child, police said.

Morse was being held in the Sussex Correctional Institution in lieu of a $14,500 bail. Pauline Morse was released on a $14,500 bail. Both were told to have no contact with their 11-year-old daughter or her 5-year-old sister.

The two children were being cared for by the local Division of Family Services, police said.

The 11-year-old told police in chilling detail about the alleged abuse, according to court documents obtained by Delaware newspaper The News Journal.

The girl said her father said "she could go five minutes without brain damage," the newspaper reported, citing court documents.

According to the court documents the girl said Morse would "sometimes look away while he did it and (redacted) would become afraid that he would lose track of time and she would die."

Morse moved to Delaware six years ago from Western Washington; he had practiced medicine in Puget Sound for more than 20 years.

Morse was a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, taught at the UW and worked at Valley Children’s Clinic in Renton. Morse was named one of Seattle's top pediatricians from 1995-2007 and won a national research award for his study on the near death experiences of children.

He wrote several books, including “Transformed by the Light” and “Parting Visions”, and also spoke on KCTS 9 in Seattle.

“They enter into a world of darkness.  Usually they feel they are going through a dark tunnel or passageway or something like that,” Morse said during the KCTS interview.

Morse showed the host pictures children drew of their near death experiences.

“This is a 10 year-old girl who nearly died of a diabetic coma at Seattle Children's Hospital. We're looking down at her body and she felt that she was floating on the ceiling,” said Morse.

Morse has long had a fascination with this topic, later completing what he called “The Seattle Study” where he checked back in with some of his child subjects later in life. 

Morse claimed having a near death experience is good for you, resulting in a love for living. He felt the children in his study gave more money to charity as adults, volunteered in the community and did not suffer from drug abuse.

The Washington State Department of Health reported there were no complaints filed against Morse.