Date: Sun Mar 06 1994 14:32:42 To: All Subj: Abduction Ethics UFO - Circulated with permis

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Date: Sun Mar 06 1994 14:32:42 From: Sheldon Wernikoff To: All Subj: Abduction Ethics UFO ------------------------------- Circulated with permission from David A. Gotlib, M.D. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ The Abduction Investigator's "Duty of Care" David A. Gotlib, M.D. 2 St. Clair Ave. West, #607 Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 1L5 Telephone (416) 963-8700 Paper presented at Abduction Study Conference at M.I.T., June 1992 Abstract Every abduction investigator implicitly enters into a contract with each experiencer whom he or she investigates. The experiencer provides data in return for assistance in understanding what has happened to the experiencer. This contract exists whether or not it is clearly or openly stated. With this implied contract comes a responsibility on the part of the investigator, a responsibility for whatever happens to the experiencer as the direct or indirect result of what occurs during this relationship. It is unclear how many investigators understand this fact, appreciate the ramifications of it, or have the background and training to meet that responsibility. There is not much chance that this situation will change in the near future. There is little incentive to adapt or change techniques, to admit the possibility of error, or to expand the conceptualization of the phenomenon. For the well-being of the population that has these experiences, the present situation is potentially dangerous. The abduction community must immediately begin to begin to study scientifically the safest and most effective ways to meet this responsibility. Introduction The study of UFO abductions differs markedly from the study of CE-1, CE-2 and CE-3 cases in one important respect. The abduction experience has acquired a sense of urgency, on the basis of the psychological after-effects of the experiencer -- the sense of victimization, helplessness, isolation, disbelief and shattering of world-view. As a result of this emphasis, the study of what some call "the abduction experience," "experienced anomalous trauma," or "anomalous experience," has evolved into a curious hybrid of scientific research and psychotherapy. The raison d'etre of the investigator is the finding of proof, whether by the documentation of cases (including hypnotic regressions), the determining of correlations and patterns across cases, the analyzing of implants or the tracking down of medical records for missing pregnancies. Yet an experiencer who seeks out an investigator interested in abductions is not coming primarily out of a sense of public or scientific duty. Rather, experiencers are seeking, sometimes desperately, to settle the turmoil within; they are seeking someone who will listen to them, will believe them, and will help them make sense of it all. The Contract Since the primary motivation of the experiencer is to seek help, by developing a relationship the investigator implicitly enters into a contract with the experiencer. The terms of the contract are as follows. The experiencer provides the data, while the investigator undertakes to provide the expected help. Put another way, by working with experiencers, the investigator implicitly accepts responsibility for assisting them, not just with remembering the experiences, but with explaining them, dealing with their emotional effects, and integrating these experiences into their lives. To assume otherwise -- that the investigator's role is limited to study and documentation -- is naive. One experiencer compared such an attitude on the part of the investigator to the behavior of a medical doctor who, faced with a patient with a broken arm, provides no treatment but simply asks the patient to describe in detail how the arm was broken. To be sure, many investigators do some kind of counselling, individually and/or through operating support groups; some investigators do refer experiencers to qualified therapists when it is obvious they are in need of professional help. Counselling and support groups are really therapeutic interventions, and arguments have been made that this kind of work is properly left to professional therapists. The scarcity of mental-health professionals who are willing to work in this field makes this a moot point at present, so investigators have historically been forced to take on this responsibility to fill the void. One Problem in Fulfilling the Investigator's Side of the Contract Providing support and guidance to experiencers is a task that is neither simple nor easy. One important reason why this is so is that we are not sure what we are dealing with in the "abduction experience." Most of us at this conference would likely be prepared to agree that the abduction experience is a legitimate experience of some kind -- that is, it is not a hallucination or delusion or other pathological process. What is not generally agreed on is the nature of the experience. Each interpretation -- whether it is the "Intruders" hypothesis favoured by Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs; the "Magonia" idea of Jacques Vallee; the "Imaginal realm" of Ken Ring; or others -- each one implies something fundamentally different about the nature of the experience. To illustrate the ethical dilemma in providing help to experiencers, this paper will compare and contrast the Intruders and Imaginal hypotheses. Intruders vs. Imaginal as Models for Helping The well-known Intruders premise casts experiencers in the role of victims, helpless in the face of powerful entities perpetrating indignities upon them and their families. The Intruders come when they want and do what they want, and there is nothing the victim can do about it. By contrast, the Imaginal hypothesis suggests that abductions comprise a combination of physical experiences and symbolic communications between our reality and an "imaginal realm." The term "imaginal" refers to something quite different than the more common term "imaginary." "Imaginary" refers to fictions that are made up through creative invention and fantasy. By contrast, the imaginal realm is "...ontologically real; it is also a world that has form, dimensions, and, most important for us, persons." The imaginal realm can be perceived only in altered states of consciousness that destabilize ordinary perceptual modalities. Ring suggests that "lacking the framework and terminology of the third realm...[abductees] may easily and naturally attempt to assimilate these encounters to physical reality -- a process that is surely abetted by the publicity given to UFO investigators." According to this premise, abduction experiences share something fundamental in common with near-death experiences, shamanic journeys, and folkloric traditions of fairies, elves and demons.(1) Both the Imaginal and the Intruders interpretations validate the individual and his or her story; both assert that there is an objective reality to the experience, that it is non- pathological and not a sign of mental illness or imbalance; and that it is not a rare, isolated event --- it occurs to many people in all walks of life. Yet the two interpretations differ radically in their implications, and in their potential to help the experiencer. In the Intruders scenario, the experiencer is a helpless victim, vulnerable to be taken and used at any time, with little defense or recourse. One's memories of the experience cannot be trusted, because a good feeling or positive experience is likely to be the result of manipulation by the aliens. Body, mind, emotions -- of self and of loved ones -- all are vulnerable to manipulation by the Intruders. Counselling along the lines of this model provides some explanation where before there was none, but what goes with the explanation is a future fraught with helplessness and fear. The Imaginal approach suggests that the key to understanding the meaning of the experience lies in exploring the interaction between what is experienced directly in the uncharted realm of the imaginal, and what interpretations (drawn from culture, biography and personality) are made of these experiences. Whereas the Intruder scenario predetermines the meaning of the experience (i.e., abductee as victim), the Imaginal model provides considerable freedom for the interpretations of both experiencer and investigator to develop. Experiencers can and often do find themselves leaving behind the role of victim and experiencing positive personal transformations. Keith Thompson comments on the significance of this opportunity in his book Angels and Aliens (2): ...Over time, many [abductees] come to see that on the other side of the frustrations of life in the margins lies a perception available to those willing to enter it: that not being able to classify oneself is also a freedom from having to cling to a single identity. Willingly embrace the marginal, liminal, twilight realms of being, the domain of uncertainty and not-knowing, can make possible new insights, new ways of "constructing reality." In this sense, the UFO encounter experience prods us to take apart easy ideas about the supposedly interminable gulf between mind and matter, spirit and body, masculine and feminine, nature and culture, and other familiar dichotomies. If we knew that one or the other (or neither) of these models was correct, we would have a justification for counselling people on that basis. But we have no conclusive scientific proof for either of these hypotheses. There are intriguing aspects to the arguments of both camps, but neither one has produced the kind of compelling argument that has persuaded the majority of people in Ufology, let alone the scientific community or the general public. Nor does the field have a body of scientifically collected, documented and replicable evidence that a physician or licensed psychotherapist could present to a group of peers as justification for using one particular model over another for counselling and therapy . Collections of case studies and dramatic hypnotic regressions, while indispensable in the early stages of any scientific endeavour, do not constitute scientific proof. Testimonials from experiencers about how investigators from one camp or another helped them are of limited value in deciding on a model for counselling. It stands to reason that an experiencer given a belief system and a community that shared this belief -- i.e. given a new consensus reality -- will fare better than an experiencer who is still isolated and confused. So the fact that some experiencers who have been counselled through one or the other model feel better than he or she did before meeting the investigator tells us nothing about (a) whether this is the best method of helping, let alone about (b) whether the model is an accurate interpretation of the phenomenon. In practice, an experiencer is often deeply committed to the particular interpretation he or she developed during the investigation. Experiencers sometimes see the presentation of alternate interpretations of their experiences as threatening. (For instance, at a networking conference in Boston in 1991, a social anthropologist on the panel mentioned that a form of abduction experience is studied in the Catholic tradition under the name "demonology." An experiencer in the audience took this statement literally, and became angry at the implied assertion that abductees were really being possessed by demons.) There are few if any scientific studies assessing the benefit and harm of any single approach. Even worse, there are no comparative studies of different interventions -- for instance, the therapeutic outcome of using an Imaginal model vs. an Intruders model. To review, I am suggesting the following: 1. The abduction investigator is implicitly responsible for the effect of his investigation on the experiencer -- how the experiencer comes to understand the experience, and the nature of the psychological effects of this new understanding. Herein lies a tremendous responsibility. It involves reshaping the world-view of another person, and it has the potential to affect all aspects of someone's life. 2. There is no consensus about the nature of the experience. Proposed theories differ radically in nature, and in their implications for the coping process. 3. There are no comparisons of interventions based on the different theories to determine the one that will be most beneficial for the experiencer. In fact, we have little scientific evidence at all to indicate that what we are doing is either safe or effective. Standards and Practices In time, study of the abduction experience will (it is hoped) provide insight into the issues raised above. Ethical study of the abduction experience will do so according to practices that do not put the welfare of the experiencer at risk. Standards and practices are desperately needed to protect the welfare of experiencers and provide guidance for both investigators and therapists. These standards and practices should cover two areas. The first area, investigative protocol and technique, was discussed earlier in this conference (in my paper "Methodological Problems in Abduction Work to Date"; I will not repeat those points here). The second area, the focus of this paper, is "how one cares for the experiencer." Research to determine the kind of intervention that is most safe and effective for experiencers is long overdue. This can be done in parallel with scientific investigation of the abduction experience, if appropriate techniques are followed. Developing the necessary procedures will require expertise not only from ufologists, but also from the following interested parties: * Experimental psychologists and medical ethicists, who are familiar with the ethical problems and practical complexities of research programs involving humans; * Psychotherapists who are trained in counselling and treatment in both one-to-one and group settings; * Experiencers who can provide valuable insight and guidance, and have the right to be active participants in the development of caring models; * A diverse group of experts to bring an eclectic understanding to the phenomenon. For instance, sociologists, folklorists, and anthropologists have all studied the abduction experience and have important contributions to make, not only to the understanding of ufologists, but also to the understanding of each experiencer. Some relatively simple changes in investigative procedure should be made in the meantime. 1. The investigator should make his or her responsibilities clear, including the nature of the services he can provide (including such support services as psychotherapy and counselling that may be part of the "team") and those he or she cannot or will not provide. The qualifications of those on the investigative team should be made known to the experiencer. The experiencer must express clearly his or her own needs and expectations, and the investigator should facilitate this process. There should be a clear agreement between experiencer and investigator before any work begins. Confidentiality of data should be discussed and agree upon during this stage. 2. A screening procedure to determine the most important needs of the experiencer is next in importance. Specifically, since the existence of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-like syndrome among abductees has already been documented, it would be irresponsible if the investigator did not routinely screen for this and other conditions whose presence might dictate that therapeutic intervention should precede investigation. 3. Providing support, guidance and counselling to experiencers should be an integral part of the investigation process. That is, the process should be made to serve experiencers as well as investigators. What kind of support is given, and what are the qualifications and training needed for those who provide the support, continue to be open questions, and the community should move quickly to address them. 4. An important part of this responsibility is education. At some point during the abductee's relationship with the investigator, the former has the right to be informed fully on all views of the abduction experience, whether or not the investigator agrees with them. Peer Review, and Why We Are Unlikely to See It A body of standards and practices is of very limited value without a system of self-regulation through peer review. This peer review system must have the power to enforce these standards, and this power must come from the investigators themselves. Investigators must relinquish some of their independence to this system. It appears that there is little incentive for most people in this field to submit to such quality control and constructive criticism. Most investigators do their work voluntarily, on their own time, without compensation. Some are attached to particular points of view or investigative practices. An individual investigator would have little to gain by having a peer review panel tell him what he can and cannot do in his work (for instance, that the result of hundreds of hours of research is methodologically flawed and unsuitable for publication). Under the present conditions, it seems unlikely that abduction investigators will accept common standards and practices and submit to their enforcement. However, circumstances might change to provide more incentive to do so. Motivation for Change: A Cautionary Tale A physician is told to expect, at least once in his or her career, to be the target of a malpractice suit. This is likely to happen no matter how careful, how conscientious, how well-informed, and how skillful the physician is. Some cases go sour, and a small proportion of clients will complain. When such a suit is brought, the physician's management of the case is scrutinized by a panel of his peers. The decision is based not on the outcome of the case, but on whether the physician's management of the case was within the accepted standards of practice of the community. It is likely that an abduction investigator, sooner or later, will face the following, worst-case scenario: During or after an investigation, an abductee suffers an emotional breakdown, perhaps even commits suicide. A member of the family, who is not an experiencer and who is not sympathetic to the idea of abductions as legitimate experiences, feels, rightly or wrongly, that the intervention of the investigator is in some way responsible for the breakdown. Such an angry relative might then bring a civil suit against the investigator and others involved in the study of the case, claiming negligence. Negligence involves the violation of what the court might find to be the duty of care owed by the investigator to the experiencer. If the court did find that such a duty of care exists, then the following question would be asked: Did the person who owed that duty (the investigator) conduct himself or herself to the standard of care as required of him or her by professional colleagues? If there are no professional colleagues and if no such professional standards exist, then did the investigator show the standards a reasonable person would expect? If the answer to this question is "no," then the court could find the investigator negligent, and thereby responsible for damages caused by such negligence. In this scenario, the specific charge would be that the investigator ought to have known the abductee was subject to great emotional strain because of the experience. Through the investigation, he or she had opened a "Pandora's box" without knowing how to close it or control it, thus putting the experiencer at risk. By creating (and adhering to) a set of standards, the abduction community establishes a code of conduct, a code that a court could consider because a large group of professionals had been concerned enough to examine the question. The court would, however, not be obliged to accept these standards. This scenario also highlights the potential importance of a psychological screen to determine safety for investigation. Since emotional trauma (including PTSD-like syndromes) as a result of abduction experiences has been well-described in the UFO literature, the failure to perform some sort of screen would be difficult to justify, unless the Ufology community takes the trouble beforehand to study the problem and determine whether or not it is practically needed. Such a lawsuit, with its novel and scandalous twist, would be irresistible to the media. The issue of standards and practices might move from the pages of Ufology journals onto the columns of daily newspapers and tabloid TV. The outcome of such a situation would be disastrous for all concerned. Experiencers would find their isolation and social stigmatization intensified. Investigators and therapists would have to deal with a loss of credibility (at best) or hostility and social censure (at worst). (Those who subscribe to the idea that the Government is involved in a "UFO cover-up" can appreciate the potential here for discrediting Ufology). In this worst-case scenario, the abduction investigation community would find itself under very close scrutiny. The community will fare poorly under such scrutiny unless it faces the issues discussed above. This scenario remains a possibility in any field that tries to offer help to individuals. Health care professions attempt to protect both practitioners and clients from this type of tragedy by the adoption of a common set of standards and practices and the creation of a system of self-policing and enforcement. It is past due for abduction investigators to do the same. Conclusion He who breaks a thing to see what it is has left the path of wisdom. J.R.R. Tolkien The debate over whether abductions represent invasion by Intruders or Imaginal images -- or guidance of humanity by Space Brothers -- is not an academic one. Each time a new abductee surfaces -- confused, isolated, the person's consensus reality shattered -- he or she reaches out to be helped and presents the investigator or therapist with the dilemma of how best to help. How should the abductee come to understand and deal with the experience? Which model is most helpful? Which model is closest to the truth? These are the immediate questions that face the Ufology community. For better or worse, abduction investigators have by default found themselves filling the roles of counsellor and therapist on behalf of those whom they would study. There is little hard data to guide the investigator, though fortunately there is a growing community of concerned mental health professionals willing to lend their time and expertise to the task. Curiosity, good intentions and compassion for experiencers do not replace practices based on scientific knowledge, ethical reasoning, and appropriate training and experience. Those who choose to investigate abductions are also accepting the responsibility of guiding the experiencers to a new integration and understanding. It might be argued that investigators who do not fulfill this responsibility are, in effect, subjecting experiencers to a second round of violation, with only the procedures being different. References 1. Kenneth Ring. Toward an Imaginal Interpretation of "UFO Abductions." ReVision, Vol. 11, No. 4, Spring 1989, p.17- 24. 2. Keith Thompson. Angels and Aliens: UFOs and the Mythic Imagination. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1991, p.189. <*** End of file***>


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