LEGAL ISSUES PERTAINING TO RETRACTORS — (False Memory Syndrome Foundation)

To view complete original article click here

False Memory Syndrome Foundation

Adapted from December 1997 and June 1999 FMSF Newsletters and Lipton, A. (1999). Recovered Memory in the Courts, in Sheila Taub (Ed.), Recovered Memories Of Child Sexual Abuse: Psychological, Social, And Legal Perspectives On A Contemporary Mental Health Controversy, (1999). Courtesy of Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, Ltd., Springfield, Illinois.

The cases seem to fall into a relatively uniform pattern of events. Typically, the individual seeks help for a condition such as depression, an eating disorder, or difficulty in a relationship. Often the individual has no memory of any sexual abuse in her past, although in some cases she has a memory of isolated abusive incidents. The therapist may voice suspicions that the individual’s symptoms suggest a history of child sexual abuse. Through the use of symptom “checklists,” non-pathological aspects of a normal personality may become distorted and be seen as symptoms of something deeper. The therapist may tell the patient that her symptoms are too severe to be attributed only to the patient’s current life difficulties, and that the patient should explore her past. After being led to imagine horrifying acts of rape and incest, the patient, not unexpectedly, is overcome by feelings of revulsion and degradation. Many patients are encouraged to view these feelings as a response to real memories of actual events —not just imaginings. Any doubts the patient may voice are often treated as an indication that the patient is “in denial” and is not yet ready to accept the images as truth or is still under the control of the alleged abuser.

If, in addition, the therapy includes sessions of hypnosis and hypnosis-like procedures, both of which are known to increase a person’s susceptibility to suggestion, the stage is set for the development of false memories. Professional organizations have warned that hypnosis and related techniques may lead to increased suggestibility and confabulation, memory hardening, source amnesia, and a loss of critical judgment. It has long been understood that these techniques do not enhance the accuracy of recall; instead they may render a person overconfident of the “memories” retrieved, whether or not they are accurate.

Many court records describe, in addition to the use of hypnosis, the administration of high levels of antidepressants and other drugs to the patient. Most patients were encouraged to cut off contact with family members. Some were hospitalized for long periods in units for patients with dissociative disorders. Some were instructed to “detach” from all contacts outside the therapy group. The techniques cited in many complaints are quite similar to the practices described in a 1998 U.S. Grand Jury Indictment as those commonly associated with mind control and brainwashing. (see UNITED STATES V. PETERSON ET AL., 1998 )

To view complete original article click here

A note on suicidal deterioration with recovered memory treatment — (Journal of Affective Disorders)

Volume 58, Issue 2, May 2000


Background: Many patients who have been told they have Multiple Personality/Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD/DID) seem to have deteriorated clinically after being so diagnosed. We report here the results of a survey of suicide attempts in patients diagnosed as having MPD and a comparison group hospitalized with a mood disorder. Methods: Twenty individuals who had been diagnosed as having MPD, had developed false memories, and had relinquished them, were surveyed with respect to suicide attempts before and after the diagnosis. Twelve of those approached agreed to provide data and were compared with 12 patients from an in-patient mood disorders unit, matched for age and sex. Results: In the MPD group more patients attempted suicide after being diagnosed than before and they made more separate attempts at suicide than before. The reverse was true in the comparison group with patients and suicide attempts before and after hospitalization. Comparing the numbers of attempts in the groups before diagnosis/hospitalization and afterward Chi2=20.177, DF=1, P<0.001. Limitations and Conclusions: Both samples were highly selected, and the comparison group does not provide an exact control. Nevertheless, the results support a trend in the literature that finds the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and the use of recovered memory treatment are harmful.

Excerpts from Results

Twelve MPD subjects…participated in the study.  The comparison group comprised 11 [people].

In the MPD group six respondents listed “depression” among their reasons for seeking help.  Four of these listed depresion as the only reason…  Two patients in the comparison group received the diagnosis of major depression.

Seven of the 12 index patients had attempted suicide.  Half of the suicide attempts before and 80% after the diagnosis of MPD involved drug overdoses incluyding antidepressants [this shows that the people attempting suicide were on psych drugs, usually antidepressants – SSRI Ed].

Among the controls [people who by definition had been in teatment longer – SSRI Ed] 2 patients made no suicide attempts and 4 made 1 attempt before hospitalization but none after. The remaining 6 made a total of 99 attempts before hospitalization and 16 attempts afterwards.

Excerpts from Discussion

Many studies have found that patients with major depression are at significantly higher risk [of suicidality] that the general population…