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Maryland Court Recognizes Dissociative Amnesia

May 8th, 2014

moscJudge Ronald B. Rubin issued an opinion in Montgomery County Circuit Court yesterday finding that “dissociative amnesia has been sufficiently tested by the psychiatric and psychological community using research methods generally applied in those fields and that it is generally accepted” (p.19).  The court rejected as “unrealistic and unnecessary” Dr. Harrison Pope’s claim that laboratory studies are necessary, noting that “no complete laboratory study could ever be completed on repression of events as traumatic as sexual abuse.” The court also found that the methodological criticisms of studies offered by the plaintiffs “were effectively rebutted by the testimony of Dr. Silberg, the plaintiff’s hearing exhibits and the well-regarded medical literature” (p.18).

Dr. Pope offered a survey he conducted as evidence that dissociative amnesia was not generally accepted. Judge Rubin concluded: “Dr. Pope’s after-the-fact ‘survey’ of a small number of psychiatrists who are dissatisfied with the work of DSM committees is not persuasive evidence of anything other than some doctors disagree” (p.16). It is worth noting that Pope’s survey found a higher rate of acceptance of dissociative amnesia disorder than the problematic study by Patihis et. al., discussed in an earlier post.

The court also cited the “carefully written and reasoned opinion of the federal judge in Clark v. Edison,” another case that rejected Dr. Pope’s position, as a “further indication that the theory [of dissociative amnesia] has attained general acceptance” (p. 19). This encouraging decision suggests that the science of recovered memory is starting to overcome the politics.

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