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A former American Psychiatric Association president complains, why doesn’t psychiatry get respect as a science?


Former APA President Jeffrey A. Lieberman complains at Medscape (here), picked up by Mad In America , “What Does the New York Times Have Against Psychiatry?” He is referring to Tanya Luhrmann’s Times article here. (Hint: To get to her piece, hit the navbar to pass the pop-up ad):

“Why would such a report be printed in a widely respected publication such as the New York Times?” asks Lieberman. “What other medical specialty would be asked to endure an anthropologist opining on the scientific validity of its diagnoses? None, except psychiatry. Psychiatry has the dubious distinction of being the only medical specialty with an anti-movement. There is an anti-psychiatry movement. You have never heard of an anti-cardiology movement, an anti-dermatology movement, or an anti-orthopedics movement. What would give an anthropologist license to comment on something that is so disciplined, bound in evidence, and scientifically anchored?”

Okay, doc, let’s think this one out.

If I chose to live with a bad heart or bad skin problems or a hunchback, it would just be my problem, right? But a psychiatrist could have me committed because other people have decided I can’t live with my problems. With great power, comes great responsibility and great temptations for abuse. I hope psychiatrists can get used to it, because the public oversight (which includes critics, temperate critics or otherwise) is only fair.

Calling it science should increase the public oversight, not decrease it. If it were self-acknowledged to be a crackpot cult, the standards of actionable harm might be lower.

See also:

Jeff Brown: Separating science from apparent myth

Book charts psychiatry’s decline

Conference: Psychiatry beyond scientism

Psychiatry to undergo a fully materialist reboot?

Psychiatry a science? It has suffered new blow to prestige

A lesson for pop science in the troubled history of psychiatry?

Note: So far as I know, in Ontario (province of Canada), the system actually makes it easier to commit people, at least temporarily, than in the United States. But the justification is fear of them being found dead overnight (it is currently minus 30 Celsius here in Ottawa, for example – and Toronto turned into a huge freezer recently as well). However, the detained person has the right to see a psychiatrist first thing in the morning.

(I watched this happening once when I was sitting in an emerg. An older middle-aged woman had been making a scene in a donut shoppe and the police brought her to the hospital instead of jail – probably because she would be in a holding tank with young female felons and hookers otherwise. So the medical resident told her she may as well settle down for the night in a cube, and Dr. Xxxx would be by in the morning to hear her story. And that she should be glad to learn that she wasn’t facing charges. People just wanted to know why she was so upset … Then he went back to his heart attack patient.) – O’Leary for News

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose


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