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The Memory Debate

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The validity of recovered memory decided in US court.

The court of Judge Edward F. Harrington had no doubt in finding that the theory of recovered memory as scientific and valid for the use in the courts of the United States.

Some notable quotes from the decision:

for a more detailed text of the court ruling click here

"The factors to be considered when deciding if proffered testimony is valid 'scientific knowledge,' and therefore reliable, are. . ." (p.3)

"After considering these factors, this Court finds that the reliability of the phenomenon of repressed memory has been established, and therefore, will permit the plaintiff to introduce evidence which relates to the plaintiff's recovered memories" (p.3).

"In brief, Dr. van der Kolk testified that repressed memories is not a scientific controversy, but merely a political and forensic one" (p.5).

"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV, 1994), which is a widely used manual by psychiatrists to define mental diagnostic categories and is published by the American Psychiatric Association, also recognizes the concept of repressed memories" (p.7).

Final paragraph: "It is important to stress that, in considering the admissibility of repressed memory evidence, it is not the role of the Court to rule on the credibility of this individual plaintiff's memories, but rather on the validity of the theory itself. For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby denies the Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude Repressed Memory Evidence. For the law to reject a diagnostic category generally accepted by those who practice the art and science of psychiatry would be folly. Rules of law are not petrified in the past but flow with the current of expanding knowledge" (p.9).

Quote taken from "The validity of Recovered Memory: Decision of a US District Court. Judge Edward F. Harrington. presentation by Jim Hopper Ph. D.

The mental health community cannot agree, yet a District Judge after hearing all the evidence says that a theory is valid. It would seem somewhat obtuse for that community to continue in its efforts to renew the debate. A more commonsense approach would be to stop the contensiousness and get on with some real research that will expand our knowledge of memory and help people.

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