Father sues over false memory

The Guardian/December 12, 2003
By Kirsty Scott

The father of a woman who during "recovered memory" therapy accused him of having sexually abused her is suing an NHS trust for £250,000 over the family's ordeal.

Jim Fairlie, 63, a former deputy leader of the Scottish National party, alleges that false memories were extracted from his daughter, Katrina, as she received treatment to find the cause of what was thought to be a psychosomatic illness.

Mr Fairlie has asked a judge at the court of session to allow a full hearing for his case against Perth and Kinross healthcare NHS trust, now NHS Tayside, and Perth and Kinross council, in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the UK.

During five months of the therapy, Ms Fairlie, now 30, alleged her father and 17 other men, including two politicians, had sexually abused her and that she saw her father murder a girl.

Ms Fairlie later withdrew her claims, saying they were untrue, and a police investigation was dropped because of lack of evidence. The family has since been reunited, but Mr Fairlie said their lives were devastated.

Ms Fairlie had been admitted to Perth Royal infirmary in 1994 complaining of abdominal pains. She had operations to remove her appendix and then her gall bladder. Medical staff at the PRI thought Ms Fairlie's symptoms were psychosomatic, or imaginary, and might be a response to something traumatic in her life. They referred her to the psychiatric unit at the Murray Royal hospital in Perth.

After five months, Ms Fairlie had nightmares and believed her father had sexually abused her.

Mr Fairlie believes that recovered memory therapy, which claims to unlock patients' painful memories, was to blame. He said doctors at the PRI had not been aware of a laboratory report showing that his daughter's gall bladder was inflated. Outside court yesterday, Mr Fairlie said he was getting his life back together now.

A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said she could not comment while the case was ongoing.

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