Professor Elizabeth Loftus’ response to John Read

Elizabeth Loftus

Photo: Professor Loftus in Hamilton NZ, 27th August 2000.

THE DOMINION Monday August 28th, 2000:


A proposed law change could see fathers who are wrongly accused of sexually abusing their children suing therapists who "recovered" false memories of the abuse, says a leading American academic who specialises in memory research.

Professor Elizabeth Loftus of the University of Washington in Seattle made the prediction at the New Zealand Psychological Society’s conference in Hamilton yesterday where she gave a keynote address which local opponents of her research had earlier tried to prevent her making.

Two opponents, psychologists Hilary Haines and Eileen Swan, handed material on Professor Loftus to delegates attending her lecture.

Professor Loftus’ website:

Letter to: THE DOMINON
Independent Newspapers Ltd.
12 August 2000


I write in response to David McLoughlin’s August 5 piece about my invitation to speak to the New Zealand Psychological Society.

I live in a country where freedom of speech is one of the most cherished possessions that citizens have. Who would choose to live without it? I would hope that people would stand up against those who try to take it away.

When I was elected president of the American Psychological Society, two people resigned from the organisation. It hurt my feelings.

I created a presidential symposium on science and pseudo-science for the annual meeting. Thousands either attended or read about it in our monthly newspaper. Thank goodness the two were not able to stop an important message from reaching thousands. I can only hope that the outcome will be similar in New Zealand. The issues surrounding the repressed memory controversy are literally a matter of life and death. Patients who have had false memories and beliefs planted have gotten worse, and some have ended up killing themselves.

Innocent parents and others have been wrongly accused, families have been destroyed, and more than a few innocents have gone to jail.

The uncritical acceptance of any dredged-up memory, no matter how dubious, has trivialised the experiences of the genuinely abused and increased their suffering. For all these reasons I feel compelled to speak out about this problem as forcefully as I can.

I hope I have the chance to do this in New Zealand and perhaps some of the years of suffering experienced in America can be minimised in your country.

ELIZABETH LOFTUS,Seattle, Washington

More about this controversy on John Read page

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