Standards for Informed Consent in Recovered Memory Therapy.

J. Cannell, J. I. Hudson and J. Harrison G. Pope,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 29(2): 138-147, 2001.
Malpractice suits against therapists for either instilling or recovering false memories of sexual abuse have increased in the last few years and some of the awards have been large. Failure to give informed consent, that is, failing to inform patients concerning the risk of recovering false memories, is one of the main allegations increasingly made against therapists in recovered memory cases. In the landmark case on informed consent, Canterbury v. Spence fashioned a standard of disclosure that focused on how material the potential warnings were to the patient's decision and specifically stated the standard would be set by the law, not by the profession. The court ruled that the "risk or cluster of risks" must be disclosed to the patient in a manner that meets the patient's "informational needs." A review of relevant literature shows that a substantial body of information existed by the early 1990s that warned psychotherapists about the risk of false reports of sexual and physical abuse. This article concludes that the "risk or cluster of risks" that must be disclosed to a patient recovering repressed memories in psychotherapy should have included warnings about recovering false memories.