Psychologist withdraws SJC appeal on license

Mary O’Neill acknowledged having sex with patient Eric MacLeish

A female psychologist who had sex with a former patient is withdrawing her court appeal seeking the return of her license.

Brookline psychologist Mary O’Neill acknowledged having a sexual relationship with her patient, Eric MacLeish, just weeks after his therapy sessions ended. The standard punishment in such cases is permanent license revocation, but O’Neill filed an appeal with the state Supreme Judicial Court arguing that her license should be only temporarily suspended because her lapse in judgment was caused by the collapse of her own marriage.

The case was scheduled to be heard next month, but SJC Clerk Susan Mellen said O’Neill’s attorney told her he is withdrawing the appeal. Mellen said some paperwork must be completed before the withdrawal is official, but she says she has already told the SJC justices not to bother studying the case files. The Associated Press reported that O’Neill’s attorney  confirmed he was withdrawing the appeal, but gave no reason for the decision. The attorney could not be reached by CommonWealth.

The case was the focus of a lengthy article on CommonWealth’s website that dealt with the legal issues involved as well as O’Neill’s high-profile patient, MacLeish. MacLeish is an attorney who represented many of the clients who sued the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston alleging priests had sexually abused them. The case brought MacLeish national attention, but court records indicate it also scarred him emotionally and made him realize that he had been sexually abused as a child at the hands of a teacher at a boarding school in England and by a scoutmaster associated with the school.

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Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In 2004, MacLeish turned to O’Neill for help. She diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and treated him for 10 sessions between August and September 2004. Shortly after those sessions ended, the two were sleeping together.

Linda Jorgenson, a Massachusetts attorney who has represented hundreds of people who have claimed their therapists abused them sexually, said she couldn’t understand why O’Neill would withdraw her appeal. “Her briefs have been filed. All that is left is for the oral argument to take place in September,” she said. “I don’t see anything that she had to lose by waiting for the court to issue its ruling.”