Letter: Memories of abuse

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article ("Abuse claims may be false memories", 1 October) stating that the Royal College of Psychiatrists "is split between those who are sceptical that recovered memories have their basis in fact and those with a conviction that the memories of disturbed patients must be both believed and followed up" is something of an exaggeration.

Many of us are inclined to believe our patients' complaints, but to regard them sceptically where necessary, and the degree of belief or scepticism will vary from case to case. The problem with the RCP report - at least the draft that I saw - was that it gave an entirely one-sided account of the situation.

A second concern - and I write as a specialist in memory disorders - was that the report contained fundamental misunderstandings about contemporary concepts in memory theory, which it would have been embarrassing if the Royal College had published.

Your case study ("You can do nothing when you're wrongly accused. No one wants to know") is interesting, but it contrasts with your report on a discussion of child abuse at the British Psychological Society, of which you remark "because of the extreme sensitivity of the material no details can be published". Without knowing or wishing to comment in any way on the case example you discussed, I would simply remark that these situations are always sensitive, delicate, and complicated, and are seldom well represented in the media.

MICHAEL KOPELMAN

Division of Psychiatry and

Psychology

St Thomas's Hospital

London SE1

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