NEW YORK — An Idaho woman was just 70 pounds and had lost her hair and fingernails when she died a “tremendously painful” death in a New York City hospital — all due to her doctor husband’s misguided medicine — Manhattan prosecutors said Friday.
Victim Tammy Harris’s starved condition was “not something you typically see in wealthier nations,” Assistant District Attorney Victoria Meyer said Friday.
Harris’s husband of 11 years, Jeffrey Harris, pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter for allegedly killing her three years ago by administering toxic amounts of Selenium, a trace mineral typically used as a dietary supplement.
The couple had come to NYC seeking treatment before Tammy Harris, a nurse, died.
While considered safe in small doses, Selenium can cause various health issues and, “in rare cases, death,” according to the National Institutes of Health. An autopsy by the city Medical Examiner found Tammy Harris had eight times the average amount in her system.
In 2017, Jeffrey Harris began giving his ailing wife a plethora of dangerous “alternative” medicine, worsening her health problems, Meyer said in court.
Despite advice to the contrary from multiple doctors and hospital staff, “he insisted that her true affliction was mercury poisoning due to having worked at a dental office several years prior,” the prosecutor said.
While the Moscow, Idaho, woman was being treated in a hospital, her husband repeatedly interfered with her care, prosecutors said. He sneaked in “alternative” medicine and made her “cheat” doctors by pretending she was taking her prescribed medicine, the prosecutor said.
When doctors caught on to what was happening, they warned Harris to “be a husband” and not a medical provider. But he persisted, allegedly abusing his medical license to write her prescriptions for medication she did not need.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jim Farber held Harris on a $300,000 bond at his arraignment. Wearing blue jeans and two protective masks wrapped tightly around his head, he said nothing other than entering his plea of not guilty.
Asked by the judge why prosecutors didn’t bring a more serious charge, Meyer said Harris’s ill-informed belief that his wife honestly had mercury poisoning spared him from a murder rap.
Dr. Harris’s lawyer, Jason Goldman, told the court that his client has no incentive to flee and has cooperated with New York detectives during their three-year-long investigation.
“He wants to clear his name,” Goldman said.
The couple traveled to New York searching for a holistic doctor for Tammy Harris, who used a wheelchair before she dropped to the floor at the Lott New York Palace hotel on Madison Ave. on Feb. 28, 2018. She died six days later.
On Thursday, Tammy Harris’s son told the Daily News he believed Jeffrey Harris loved his mother, however misguided his actions were.
“I have no doubt that Jeff loved my mom incredibly,” said Joshua Hubbard, one of the victim’s three kids from a prior marriage. “He loved her deeply, almost to a fault. I do not believe that he intended to hurt her in any way.”