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Ask a Simple Question (Part 1)

December 22nd, 2011

We have been away on other projects all semester, but we’re delighted to be back and we have big plans for 2012. But first, an update on the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, which apparently published its last newsletter in November. We had posed five simple yes/no questions to Pamela Freyd last summer in the hopes that the Foundation might provide some clear answers.

That did not come to pass, but the FMSF did provide some responses. They were evasive in some cases and downright false in others. But at least the Recovered Memory Project now has a proper citation in the newsletter of the organization that has studiously avoided acknowledging, let alone addressing, the 100-plus corroborated cases in the archive. The rest of this post addresses the FMSF’s most deceptive answer of all. The others will be addressed in a future post:

The first question we posed was: Will you inform your readers that the Johnson case in Wisconsin, as documented here, had nothing to do with hypnosis or “digging for memories” as you have falsely claimed in several places?

The response in the newsletter is deceptive and almost entirely fact-free. It begins with a quote from a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision six years before the verdict in this case. That decision allowed the Johnsons to get access to their daughter’s medical records based on their claim that she had been hypnotized. As it turns out, the medical records proved she had not been hypnotized.

The FMSF newsletter then cites the Johnson’s closing arguments at trial. Closing arguments are just that, arguments. They are not facts or evidence of anything. How telling, then, that the FMSF has chosen to post the closing arguments in this case but not any actual evidence. (They are only posting the closing arguments by one side, however. The “educational foundation” apparently does not want to confuse its members by providing both sides.)

The FMSF response to our question ends with a vague discussion about the “standard of care.” But what Pamela Freyd keeps fudging is that the “standard of care” argument in this case was not about “recovered memory therapy.” Look at what FMSF Advisory Board Member Hollida Wakefield said under oath when asked specifically about whether this case involved recovered memory therapy:

Q: What is your understanding as to whether Dr. Reisenauer engaged in recovered memory therapy?

A: Okay. Again, my understanding is that they did not actively engage in such things as let’s see how many more memories you can come up with. Let’s hypnotize you. Let’s do visualization. They did not do that.

Testimony of Hollida Wakefield; Johnson v. Rogers Memorial Hospital (January 20, 2010), p. 173 (emphasis added.)

So, why did Pamela Freyd tell a newspaper reporter that this case was a victory against therapists who “use a variety of dubious techniques, including hypnosis, to try to excavate supposedly repressed memories”? No matter how many times she asserts otherwise, the fact remains that the Johnson case had nothing to do with hypnosis or excavating for memories.

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