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Paul McHugh

Psychiatrist, Expert Witness for the Defense.
Early FMSF advisory board member who gave professional support to FMS claims. Covered up cases of childhood sexual abuse at his own psychological clinic.
“Dr. McHugh has been on our board of advisors from the very beginning.” - FMSF Staff, in the FMSF Newsletter. [1]

Paul McHugh is a psychiatrist and one of the first False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) Advisory Board Members who regularly presented at FMSF conferences and wrote articles for the FMSF newsletter. Along with Dr. Lief, McHugh processed the family surveys collected by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. [2] McHugh’s affiliation with the FMSF is cited by Pamela Freyd as proof that False Memory Syndrome (FMS) is scientifically supported by psychiatrists. When asked about the signs and symptoms of FMS in an interview with David Calof, Pamela Freyd responded “The person with whom I would like to have you discuss that to quote is Dr. Paul McHugh on our advisory board, because he is a clinician.” [3]

McHugh serves as an expert witness for the defense in court, arguing for therapeutic malpractice by critiquing the scientific validity of recovered memories and disputing MPD as an accurate diagnosis.

Covering up Sexual Abuse:
McHugh has covered up childhood sexual abuse, keeping perpetrators from being tried in the court of law. As Mara Math reports, “At least eight men have been convicted of sexually abusing Maryland children while under treatment at the "sex disorders" clinic McHugh runs at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine -- abuse the doctors did not report, citing client confidentiality. When Maryland law was changed to require that doctors report child molestation, the clinic fought it and advised patients on how to get around the law. The memo to patients suggested that molesters report their pedophilic activities to their lawyers, who could in turn tell staff; attorney-client privilege would then protect the molesters from being reported. This memo was fully approved by the boss -- Dr. Paul McHugh.” [4]

Catholic Sexual Abuse Review Board:
McHugh was the only psychiatrist appointed to the Roman Catholic Church's national sexual abuse review board. His appointment generated considerable outcry from people who support victims of sexual abuse. What follows are selected quotes from two news articles covering the issue:

“Dubious Choice for Resolving Church Scandal”
“McHugh is the only therapist on the lay council. This makes his participation especially significant, because other members may rely on his presumed expertise. Because he frequently testifies on behalf of accused molesters, doubts may be raised about the council's desire to truly solve the problem. McHugh, after all, is the man whose report to the court in one case stated that a defendant's harassing phone calls were not obscene -- including the call that detailed a fantasy of a 4-year-old sex slave locked in a dog cage and fed human waste.” [4]

“Psychiatrist on Catholic Panel Criticized.”
“Stu Philip of Vienna, Va., who edited a newsletter in the 1990s for victims of child sexual abuse, said he was "astonished" the church would put on the panel "somebody who in any way is affiliated with an organization which says . . . that the vast majority of people who make claims [of abuse] are deluded or had memories implanted by therapists."” [5]

Suggestive Interviewing Techniques:
McHugh has admitted to using suggestive interviewing techniques – hypnosis and sodium amytal – that the False Memory Syndrome Foundation has frequently spoken out against. In his opinion, he would “encourage similar efforts” to get patients to admit they falsified memories of childhood abuse, even though prominent memories of the FMSF state that it is impossible to verify the accuracy of any statement given by a patient under sodium amytal. [6]

You can read more about the details of McHugh’s use of suggestion on our page, Suggestive Interviewing Techniques [link].

McHugh strongly advocates against transgender health care, shutting down a gender identity clinic at Johns Hopkins in 1979, derailing transgender health care at the institution for 38 years. He has dismissed transgender people as "sad caricatures" and "a waste of human resources." [4]

“Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins.”
“McHugh successfully lobbied for more than 30 years to keep gender-reassignment surgery from becoming a Medicare benefit” [7]

“Paul McHugh vs. Transgender People.”
“McHugh argues that gender diversity is essentially a lifestyle choice or an ideology, and that offering trans health services is effectively collaborating in a patient’s delusion. He describes it as akin to giving liposuction to an anorexic person.” [8]

McHugh is listed as the sole author of Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash over Meaning, Memory, and Mind. However, a close look at the book’s preface and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation’s tax records reveal that McHugh’s daughter Clare and her husband were paid upwards of $115,000 by the FMSF to ghostwrite the book. Neither McHugh nor the foundation explicitly disclosed the financial support given by the foundation - an ethical norm for scientists. You can read more about the situation through this blog post


[1] FMSF Staff (1993, December 7). “We are Proud to Report…” FMS Foundation Newsletter. 2(11), 11.
[2] Freyd, Pamela. (2002, January/February). Dear Friends. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 11(1), 1.
[3] Calof, David. (1993, April). An Interview with Pamela Freyd, PhD, Co-founder and Executive Director, FMS Foundation, Inc, Part I. Treating Abuse Today. 3(3).
[4] Math, Martha. (2002, September 20). Dubious choice for resolving church scandal. SFGATE.
[5] Murphy, Caryle & Boodman, Sandra. (2002, July 27). Psychiatrist on Catholic Panel Criticized. Washington Post.
[6] FMSF Staff. (1995, May 5). Our Critics: In Professional Publications: Example 5. FMS Foundation Newsletter. 4(5), 5.
[7] Nutt, Amy. (2017, April 5). Long shadow cast by psychiatrist on transgender issues finally recedes at Johns Hopkins. Washington Post.
[8] James, Andrea. (n.d.). Paul McHugh vs. transgender people. Transgender Map.

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