PrimeTime: Katarina Witt’s Secret File

7:58 pm Press Releases - ABC News

For Release: July 25, 2001

Exclusive Interview With Olympic Gold Skater Katarina Witt About Secret File on “PrimeTime Thursday,” July 26

And: Special Encore Presentation Of Shocking Story of Cancer Misdiagnosis

— Two Women Come Forward After Original Broadcast To Thank “PrimeTime Thursday” For Information That They Believe Saved Them From Medical Nightmare –

In an exclusive TV interview, Olympic Gold skater Katarina Witt tells ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas she has asked the German government to keep private her secret “Stasi” file. The former East German secret police starting keeping a file on Witt in 1972, when she was 7. The file contains reams of information on Witt’s daily life, including her conversations. “It reads like a diary,” Witt tells Vargas. In an emotional denial, Witt says she was never a spy for the East Germans. “I haven’t done anything wrong,” says the skater, who won two Olympic Gold medals for East Germany. Witt is currently on tour with an ice show. The report airs on “PrimeTime Thursday,” 10-11 p.m. ET on the ABC Television Network.

And: Two young women diagnosed with cancer suffer for months, fearing death – until a “PrimeTime” broadcast leads them to a shocking discovery. They believe they were misdiagnosed with cancer based on incorrect pregnancy test results publicized in a “PrimeTime Thursday” broadcast.. “If you wouldn’t have aired the program, who knows where I would be? And thanks to you, I have my life back,” Sherri Bradford-Royle tells ABC News’ Dr. Nancy Snyderman in this week’s “PrimeTime Thursday.” Bradford-Royle, of Michigan, and Pennsylvania resident Michelle Kachurak, both learned of the allegedly faulty results after hearing about Jennifer Rufer, who was featured in a “PrimeTime Thursday” program April 19. After being falsely diagnosed with cancer, Rufer endured chemotherapy and two major surgeries, including a hysterectomy, based on the results of a routine pregnancy test made by Abbott Laboratories of North Carolina. “They ended up finding out that I have never had cancer,” Rufer told Snyderman.

As Snyderman reveals, when a woman tests positive on a pregnancy test that means she has elevated levels of a hormone called HCG. But if there is no baby, the elevated HCG levels can be a sign of a rare form of cancer that can spread rapidly and kill if untreated. Early treatment is so important that doctors sometimes order chemotherapy even if they can’t find any evidence of a tumor. “Something needs to be done, to make sure that no more people are hurt,” says HCG researcher, Dr. Laurence Cole, of the University of New Mexico. Abbott Laboratories insists its test is not more prone to false positives than other manufacturers’ HCG tests, that Cole’s conclusions are seriously flawed, that the problem is extremely rare and that the test is FDA approved only as a pregnancy test. Further, Abbott puts the blame on doctors and says the information about the tests was readily available. Recently, a jury awarded Rufer $16 million. The jury found that the hospital and Abbott, who were each ordered to pay Rufer $8 million, were equally responsible. Although the jury concluded the Abbott’s test was not defective, they did find that Abbott failed to warn adequately about the problem of false positives. Abbott is appealing the jury’s decision.

And: An update to a story about a father who some say wanted to win at all costs. Tom Lavery, of Akron, OH, spent nearly all his time with his five kids, home schooling them and pushing them to succeed at numerous competitions like spelling bees, dance contests and soapbox derbies. Lavery told ABC News’ Jami Floyd he just wanted to make sure his kids were raised properly and became the best they could be. But his middle daughter, Margie Lavery, tells a different story, one of bruises and beatings if they failed. “It was a common thing. More than I could count,” she tells Floyd. Tom Lavery told Floyd that while he smacked his kids a few times “it doesn’t belong in any kind of category of so-called abuse.” But Monday, Lavery pleaded guilty to two child-endangering charges and the judge sentenced him to three years probation and counseling.

Plus: The “PrimeTime Thursday” Q&A with actress Tea Leoni, who is positively prehistoric about her new movie, “Jurassic Park III.”, the 24-hour news service of ABC News and part of the Walt Disney Internet Group, will provide companion programming to the broadcast.

“PrimeTime Thursday” is co-anchored by Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson.
David Doss is the executive producer. (CLOSED CAPTIONED)

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ABC News Media Relations:
Adam Pockriss: (212) 456-7243
Todd Polkes: (212) 456-4586

Lauren Kapp: (212) 456-2478


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