Nicholas Furman, a 23-year-old man with acrophobia (the fear of heights) fell from a cliff on Saturday while using “virtual reality therapy.” The young man had been seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety, and after several months of traditional therapy, Dr. Sarah Haughn introduced virtual reality to the mix.
The virtual reality headset Furman was using includes a simulated experience that takes the user to a virtual edge of the Grand Canyon. The user is able to “walk” around the edges of the Canyon in the comfort of their home.
“I’ve found a lot of success with virtual reality therapy, particularly in the area of acrophobia,” said Dr. Haughn. “By tapping into three of the five major senses – that is, sight, hearing, and to some degree, touch – my patients are able to gain a near-lifelike experience.”
In an interview with TrollWire’s Harriet Faulkner, Dr. Vaughn went on to discuss one of her former patients, who had an especially severe case of acrophobia. After two days of virtual reality therapy, she claimed, the man went on to become a base jumper. The man is now sponsored by Red Bull, pulling in a six-figure salary.
Faulkner asked Dr. Vaughn if she would be removing virtual reality therapy from her practice, after the death of Nicholas Furman.
“Of course not,” she replied. “I told Mr. Furman to stay in a safe place when wearing the headset. I explicitly told him, ‘stay in doors.’ It’s not that I don’t feel bad for the guy, but come on. You don’t walk around wearing… virtually… umm… a blindfold next to a cliff. That’s not smart.”