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Recovered Memories Unreliable

from The Associated Press, 6/16/94

AMA: Recovered Memories Unreliable

CHICAGO — So-called recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse are often unreliable and should not be assumed to be true, according to the American Medical Association.

"The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication," the AMA said in a new policy statement based on a report by its science council.

The AMA's House of Delegates voted to accept the council's findings on Tuesday, the third day of its annual five-day meeting.

"Few cases in which adults make accusations of childhood sexual abuse based on recovered memories can be proved or disproved," the council said.  "It is not yet known how to distinguish true memories from imagined events in these cases."

The AMA's stand is similar to one adopted six months ago by the board of the American Psychiatric Association.  The 38,000-member psychiatrists' group is affiliated with the AMA, which has 294,000 members.

Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, complained that the AMA's stand is too weak.

"The recovered memory epidemic is the psychological-psychiatric quackery of the 20th century," Of she said Wednesday.