• Google translate:  
Increase Font Sizesmallerreset

AMA Casts Doubt on Recovered Memory

Adapted from an AP report posted anonymously to alt.feminism.  Original author is Brenda C. Coleman.  No date was supplied, but it appears to be June 1994.

The American Medical Association has proclaimed that recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse are often unreliable and should not be assumed to be true.  This comes from a new policy statement that criticizes use of the psychological technique.

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

"The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication," the policy statement says.

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

The council urged therapists to address the mental and emotional needs of clients apart from the truth or falsity of their claims.

Recovered memories have been central to several high-profile cases in the Bay Area in recent years.

In 1991, a San Mateo County jury convicted George Franklin of the 1969 rape and murder of 8year-old Susan Nason after his grown daughter, Eileen FranklinLipsker, testified that she had seen the killing, but had repressed the memory for 20 years.

Lawyers for Franklin, who was sentenced to life in prison, are challenging the conviction.

Last month, a Napa County jury awarded $500,000 in a malpractice case brought against two therapists by Gary Ramona, a father who claimed false memories of childhood sexual abuse had been implanted in his daughter.

The doctors' group's stance 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 UC-Berkeley, complained that the AMA's stance was too weak.

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

He said professional associations have trouble telling the hard truth about such issues because the medical association and the psychological association "have a significant number of members whose careers are at risk because of the mistakes they have made."

Dr. John McGrath, the AMA delegate from the American Psychiatric Association, said that in trying to enhance a person's memory a psychotherapist faces the danger of implanting false memories.

"We are not aware of what the "techniques' of "memory enhancement' are," McGrath said.  "There are no standards.  There are no procedures."