University of Baltimore Law Forum

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Hypnosis and the Law


Paul A. Dorf


Hypnosis and the law have a rather tedious history. Courts all over the country consistently have held inadmissible statements of a defendant, made out of court, while under hypnosis. The rationale is not too difficult to comprehend. Critics of hypnosis as an investigative tool belittle its reliability. They will present cases in which evidence gained through hypnosis turned out to be unreliable. This reluctance to acceptance still may be fostered by antiquated notions. In short, hypnosis was once looked upon as a kind of vaudeville gag, or worse, as a demonic device to control a person's mind. And while reliability is a legitimate concern for hypnosis as an investigative tool, reliability should not preclude its total abandonment. More importantly, the issue of reliability alone should not feed the fires of a tainted perception of what hypnosis is and what it can accomplish.

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