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Hamptons Life

Jun 29, 2017 1:18 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East Hampton Clinical Social Worker Writes Debut Novel Based On True Events

Aug 8, 2017 10:54 AM

First, do no harm.

This line has echoed in Dr. Paul Moschetta’s mind for 35 years. Attributed to the ancient Greek writer of the Hippocratic Oath—a set of ethical standards that students entering medical school agree to follow when starting their education—these words reside with many physicians throughout their careers. The binding agreement, though adapted from its original script to reflect modern values, is one of the oldest and most well known medical texts.

However, for Dr. Moschetta, this line is significant for different reasons. Eventually both the oath and the past experiences of a former patient compelled him to step away from his usual advice-driven writing—he’s co-written multiple books on marriage and the column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” for Ladies Home Journal—and venture into the world of fiction. In fact, these words influenced him so much, “Do No Harm” became the title for his debut novel.

Dr. Moschetta is a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. He and his wife, Evelyn, who shares the profession and to whom the book is dedicated, split their time between their offices and homes in Manhattan and East Hampton, where their usual clientele are those seeking marriage counseling and insight on relationships. Back in the 1970s, while he was working as a clinical social worker in a large New York State mental hospital, Dr. Moschetta met the man who inspired the protagonist in his book.

“There I met a young man, locked up on back ward, going nowhere,” Dr. Moschetta recalled. “I helped him get off that ward, and go to another ward, and then out of the hospital.”

That experience, coupled with Dr. Moschetta’s continuing contact with the man over 30 years, was the genesis of an idea to write a story—a story that, although based in truth, was fictionalized to make it more dramatic.

“It was a compelling idea for a novel,” he said. “I like to tell stories, so it was a fit.”

The novel, which took three years to complete, tells the story of the young man, Andy, who is drugged, depressed and demoralized. It details his fight to outwit the villain, Dr. Enzo Gambelli, a criminally sadistic and depraved psychiatrist, who is determined to keep him trapped in his own version of hell, Dr. Moschetta said.

Besides the struggle between innocence and evil and how it plays out in a mental hospital setting, readers can expect a portrayal of the problems that were present in many large state mental hospitals during the 1970s. These issues, such as the overuse of medication, inadequate staffing to serve large numbers of people and patients becoming institutionalized, were some of the reasons, Dr. Moschetta said, that large state mental hospitals were eventually phased out and treatment in local communities began.

Readers follow along with the timeline of Andy’s story, with the month and year of each progression headlining most of the 44 chapters. The last of the 298 pages finishes the novel with a major accomplishment by Andy, which, Dr. Moschetta said, could lead to a sequel in the future.

Dr. Paul Moschetta will sign “Do No Harm” at East Hampton Library’s Authors Night on Saturday, August 12 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. More than 100 authors and 2,500 guests are expected. Book signing reception tickets are $100 and may be purchased at the library or at the gate at 5 p.m.

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