Harrisons Sue George's Doc over Guitar

01/06/2004 at 01:00 PM EST

On a sour note, the estate of late Beatle George Harrison filed a $10 million federal lawsuit on Tuesday against one of the last doctors to treat the late rock legend, claiming the physician violated patient confidentiality and misused his relationship by asking Harrison to autograph a guitar on his deathbed.

Dr. Gilbert Lederman, director of radiation oncology at Staten Island University Hospital, is accused of forcing a weakened Harrison to autograph the instrument for the doc's teenage son and sign autographs for his two daughters two weeks before the ex-Beatle died of cancer, the suit says, according to reports.

The suit, filed in New York's Brooklyn Federal Court, also charges Lederman with using Harrison's three weeks of treatment at the hospital to gain publicity for himself and the facility against the express wishes of Harrison, who died of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001, about two weeks after he had left Staten Island for California.

"Staten Island University Hospital takes patient confidentiality very seriously and has not breached confidentiality," said hospital spokeswoman Arleen Ryback, as quoted by Reuters.

The suit alleges that Lederman "preyed upon Mr. Harrison while he was in a greatly deteriorated mental and physical condition by coercing" him to sign a guitar and other autographs as he was being prepared to leave Lederman's care.

Court papers say Lederman visited Harrison with his son and daughters and had Harrison listen to his son play the guitar and then placed it in the former Beatle's lap and asked him to autograph it. When Harrison resisted, the suit claims Lederman forced Harrison's hand.

"As far as Mr. Harrison being forced to sign the guitar goes, he absolutely and categorically denies that," Lederman's lawyer, Wayne Roth, tells Reuters.

The suit also says that after Harrison's death, Lederman spoke about the guitar to the National Enquirer, which featured a photograph of the doctor's son holding the instrument.

Lawyer Paul LiCalsi, who represents the Harrisons, said the family is primarily interested in retrieving what it feels are ill-gotten memorabilia.

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