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More Fallout at St. Luke's - Roosevelt: Widow Sues To Remove Smithers' Name

By Larry Neumeister - ASSOCIATED PRESS 7/26/00

NEW YORK The widow of the founder of the Smithers Alcoholism Treatment Center is suing to force the center to change its name because it replaced abstinence-based therapy with a program allowing moderate drinking.

Adele C. Smithers-Fornaci, the late Robert Brinkley Smithers' wife, filed a $30 million federal suit Wednesday.

She accused St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center of reneging on the terms of a $10 million gift that established the center in 1971. Among those terms was a requirement that the center offer only abstinence-based alcoholism treatment, she said.

Hospital spokesman Brad Korn said the hospital could not comment until it had seen the suit. 

Smithers-Fornaci said she has gotten hundreds of letters recently from former patients who "are shocked, dismayed, upset" by the changes at the rehab center - where such celebrities as Truman Capote and Joan Kennedy have been treated.

She said some patients mistakenly believe the moderate-drinking therapy is endorsed by the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation Inc., established by her late husband in 1952.

"It was exactly contrary to his beliefs, his personal experience with the disease of alcoholism and the medical and scientific information available," she said.

The lawsuit accused the center of violating the Smithers foundation's trademarks as well as breach of contract, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices. 

Smithers-Fornaci said the changes in the Smithers' program began shortly after her husband's death in 1994.

Alexander DeLuca, M.D., FASAM.
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Revised: November 12th, 2001.
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