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John McCartney and Herald staff |
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012, 2:19 p.m.

Pediatrician held in 'waterboarding' of daughter

  • Dr. Melvin Morse.

    Dr. Melvin Morse.

PHILADELPHIA — The Delaware father of five children who was arrested Tuesday for “waterboarding” his 11-year-old daughter is a internationally known pediatrician who specializes in so-called near-death experiences.

Dr. Melvin Morse, who has written several books on children and near-death experiences, has appeared on numerous TV shows including “Oprah,” “Larry King Live,” “20/20” and “Good Morning America” to talk about his research.

State troopers have charged Morse, 58, with multiple felony counts of endangering the welfare of a child after the girl told social workers about her father’s punishments.

Morse is the author of “Closer to the Light: Learning from the Near Death Experiences of Children,” which is subtitled “Amazing Revelations of What it Feels Like to Die.”

On his website,, he expounds on the “gaseous vapor theory of the soul” and claims to have “done more to prove the existence of life after death than any other scientist.”

State Police said the girl told investigators that Morse held her face under a running faucet causing water to flood up her nose and keeping her from breathing. The girl said Morse called the punishment “waterboarding.” Police did not know what provoked the doctor to discipline the girl in that manner, but said the girl’s mother witnessed several of the incidents but did not stop them, police said.

Social workers had scheduled the interview on Aug. 6 as a follow-up to Morse’s arrest in July in an alleged attack on the girl.

Morse and his wife were arrested at their Georgetown home, held on $14,500 bail each, and forbidden to have any contact with the 11-year-old and her 5-year-old sister. The two girls are in the care of the state’s Division of Family Services, police said.

Police could not say if Morse’s punishments had been conducted as experiments on his daughter.

In Morse’s book, he writes that his interest in near-death experiences developed after meeting a little girl who had been discovered at the bottom of a YMCA swimming pool. The girl, who recovered from nearly drowning, said she had met God during the incident and drew pictures of people she met while in “heaven.”

“I asked her an open-ended question: ‘What do you remember about being in the swimming pool?’

“‘You mean when I visited the Heavenly Father,’ she replied.

“‘Whoa! I thought. That’s a good place to start. Tell me about meeting the Heavenly Father’

“‘I met Jesus and the Heavenly Father,’” she said.

He later organized a Seattle Children’s Hospital study of 26 children who reported they had “nearly died” and claimed 23 of the 26 had told him they had had near-death experiences.

Waterboarding, used by the CIA to torture suspected terrorists, was outlawed in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

According to, the 11-year-old said her father told her she “could go five minutes without brain damage.”

Morse’s online biography describes him as a “best-selling” author who was named in “Best Doctors in America” as one of the nation’s top pediatricians.

On his website, he claims to be on the teaching staff at the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. A spokesman for Penn said the school had no record of him teaching there.
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