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HMS Takes No Action Against 'UFO Doctor'

By Andrew L. Wright

Harvard Medical School (HMS) has decided not to censure a Pulitzer Prize-winning faculty member who studies people convinced they were abducted by aliens for sexual experiments.

But Professor of Psychiatry Dr. John E. Mack was given an unusual public warning by Medical School Dean Daniel C. Tosteson '44 not to let his enthusiasm for UFO research compel him to violate the academic standards of the faculty.

The decision, disclosed yesterday, followed a one-year investigation by the Medical School.

Mack's attorney called the inquiry into Mack's conduct a challenge to academic freedom.

"This is the type of thing that almost by its existence can be intimidating," the attorney, Roderick MacLeish, said.

MacLeish said other members of the Harvard faculty supported Mack because they feared they might be next to have their work examined.

The review began after Mack appeared on "Unsolved Mysteries" and other television programs to promote his 1994 book Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens, about his treatment of 120 patients who said aliens took them away in spaceships for sexual experiments.

Mack, 65, was traveling yesterday and could not be contacted, according to an assistant. He said last year that he does not necessarily believe in space aliens, but thinks that only some unknown traumatic experience--and not a mental illness--can explain his patients' memories.

"When case after case after case, these consistent stories occur, it became clear to me that this, although mysterious, was a robust phenomenon," Mack told The Crimson in April.

"All that he was basically saying was that there were some mysteries in life,"MacLeish said. "He was not vouching for the kindof testimony these people have been making, justthat they did not appear to be mentally ill."

The special faculty committee investigatedwhether Mack's work conformed with professionalstandards and whether it could be consideredresearch on human subjects, which requires specialpermission from the University.

Medical school spokesperson Keren R. McGinitydeclined to say how often such investigations areconducted. The school would not release thefindings and McGinity declined to answerquestions.

However, in a statement, the medical school didsay that Dean Daniel C. Tosteson, in a meetingwith Mack, had "reaffirmed [his] academic freedomto study what he wishes and to state his opinionswithout impediment."

In 1983, Mack founded the psychiatry departmentat Cambridge Hospital, one of Harvard's teachinghospitals, and is currently the director of theProgram for Extraordinary Experience Research atthe Harvard-affiliated Center for Psychology andSocial Research. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977for his biography of Lawrence of Arabia.

Mack has earned high praise for his work ontopics ranging from nightmares and human conflictto teenage suicide. And under his stewardship,Cambridge Hospital's psychiatry department hasbecome one of the premier teaching institutions inthe country.

Some colleagues were reportedly unhappy thatHarvard's name became associated with Mack'sresearch.

Mack's book describes 13 cases in which peoplewere abducted by aliens for sexual experiments,including that of a man who remembers an alienfemale taking a sperm sample from him, a woman whosays she gave birth to a human-alien hybrid and aman who says he had an alien wife in a paralleluniverse.

Mack said last year that his colleagues weretoo quick to dismiss his work.

"We don't have room in our culture for this,"Mack said. "It's the elite people, my colleagues,who decide what we're supposed to believe, and tothem this isn't supposed to be."

This story was compiled with AssociatedPress wire dispatches.

The special faculty committee investigatedwhether Mack's work conformed with professionalstandards and whether it could be consideredresearch on human subjects, which requires specialpermission from the University.

Medical school spokesperson Keren R. McGinitydeclined to say how often such investigations areconducted. The school would not release thefindings and McGinity declined to answerquestions.

However, in a statement, the medical school didsay that Dean Daniel C. Tosteson, in a meetingwith Mack, had "reaffirmed [his] academic freedomto study what he wishes and to state his opinionswithout impediment."

In 1983, Mack founded the psychiatry departmentat Cambridge Hospital, one of Harvard's teachinghospitals, and is currently the director of theProgram for Extraordinary Experience Research atthe Harvard-affiliated Center for Psychology andSocial Research. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977for his biography of Lawrence of Arabia.

Mack has earned high praise for his work ontopics ranging from nightmares and human conflictto teenage suicide. And under his stewardship,Cambridge Hospital's psychiatry department hasbecome one of the premier teaching institutions inthe country.

Some colleagues were reportedly unhappy thatHarvard's name became associated with Mack'sresearch.

Mack's book describes 13 cases in which peoplewere abducted by aliens for sexual experiments,including that of a man who remembers an alienfemale taking a sperm sample from him, a woman whosays she gave birth to a human-alien hybrid and aman who says he had an alien wife in a paralleluniverse.

Mack said last year that his colleagues weretoo quick to dismiss his work.

"We don't have room in our culture for this,"Mack said. "It's the elite people, my colleagues,who decide what we're supposed to believe, and tothem this isn't supposed to be."

This story was compiled with AssociatedPress wire dispatches.

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