Letter to the Editor

Published January 27, 2007

by the Wall Street Journal

Under the heading: “Shadow World of Repressed Memory Stirs a Controversy”

This letter was in response to attorney Theodore J. Boutrous’, op-ed about the California Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Taus v. Loftus.

As members of a scientific organization who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Ms. Taus in her case against Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, my colleagues and I do not agree with the argument put forward by both Boutrous and Loftus that Taus’ suit poses a threat to both scientific research and a free press.

Our main concern is to uphold the integrity of psychological science. Misrepresenting one’s position to gather personal information, as alleged in the lawsuit, is a violation of the ethical norms of scientific conduct. Condoning such activities could jeopardize the willingness of private citizens to participate in essential psychological research.

Moreover, one can support journalistic freedom without necessarily endorsing the actions of researchers who fail to respect the rights of research subjects. These rights are far too important to allow them to be disregarded by those who might claim that scientific ends justify utilizing any means necessary to gather personal information about a former research subject’s private life.

Paul Jay Fink, MD

President, Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence,

Past President, American Psychiatric Association

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(PDF version)