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Doctor sued by Harrison quits job

Lawsuit claims doctor coerced autograph from dying rocker
/ Source: The Associated Press

The doctor accused of forcing Beatle George Harrison to autograph his guitar as he lay dying is leaving his top post at a New York hospital, a spokesman said Friday.

The move to replace Dr. Gilbert Lederman as head of the radiation oncology department at Staten Island University Hospital had been planned for two years and is not directly related to the controversy involving the late Harrison, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Harrison’s family is suing Lederman, claiming he held Harrison’s hand and forced the musician to sign a guitar for Lederman’s son.

Filed by Harrison’s estate, the suit alleges that the musician tried to resist the request by saying, “I do not even know if I know how to spell my name anymore.”

Harrison died two weeks later.

The suit alleges that Dr. Gilbert Lederman responded by saying, “Come on, you can do this,” and held Harrison’s hand as the musician wrote his name on the guitar “with great effort and much obvious discomfort.”

The estate seeks possession of the guitar and two cards it says Harrison signed as he was treated by Lederman, a Staten Island-based expert in treating large tumors with high doses of radiation. Harrison died in November 2001 after battling lung cancer and a brain tumor.

Lederman’s lawyer says in a statement Lederman had developed a relationship with Harrison, who freely autographed the guitar.

“This lawsuit is strictly allegations. Frankly, I think it’s absurd,” Lederman’s attorney, Wayne Roth, said Tuesday. “He didn’t coerce Mr. Harrison.”

Accused of violating privacy

Lederman is offering to donate the guitar to a charity that he and the Harrisons choose. The guitar is valued at less than $10,000.

A lawyer for the Harrisons says the autograph was obtained in “a cruel and abusive manner.” They want the guitar so it can’t be traded and displayed.

“George was literally lying there dying and the doctor forced George to sign a guitar,” Paul LiCalsi, an attorney for Harrison’s estate, said Tuesday. “The doctor should not be permitted to profit from this behavior.”

The estate also accuses Lederman of violating Harrison’s privacy by orchestrating invasive media coverage in the interest of promoting his medical practice.

Lederman conducted interviews about Harrison with several news outlets, many within hours of the ex-Beatle’s death, the suit charges.

The state Health Department reprimanded Lederman for talking to the press about Harrison without his consent. Lederman accepted his censure, reprimand and a $5,000 fine, documents show.