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Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine,…

Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment… (edition 2003)

by Robert Whitaker

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294557,084 (4.17)1
Title:Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
Authors:Robert Whitaker
Info:Basic Books (2003), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker



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Basically the history of psychiatry in America. Shocking and gruesome and incredibly useful. I already think of psychiatrists as quacks, but I didn't know they had such a violent history of quackery. Wow. ( )
  marsJ | Mar 31, 2013 |
Basically the history of psychiatry in America. Shocking and gruesome and incredibly useful. I already think of psychiatrists as quacks, but I didn't know they had such a violent history of quackery. Wow. ( )
  marsJ | Mar 31, 2013 |
Ótrúleg og frábær bók. Mesta hryllingslesning sem ég hef vitað. EVILNESS er orðið sem manni dettur í hug!
  gylfadottir | Feb 27, 2012 |
This was a very interesting book that I found after seeing the movie "Shutter Island" and became interested in the history of mental health treatments in America. The unimaginable pain described here, inflicted on people in the name of "science" and “progress”, is beyond unsettling. However, the author seems to assume the worst about the doctors that pioneered and utilized the various treatments that have become so associated with "insane asylums." While there is evidence here that some of the doctors were more motivated by their belief in eugenics than their Hippocratic Oath, I can't imagine they ALL were. No doubt, some of the pain these poor patients endured was due to very sincere efforts of doctors trying to find new ways to help their patients.

All that said, it's hard to overlook the fact that a number of forces worked together (big pharma, government intrusion, etc.) and seemed to put the care of the patient as a secondary concern.
I'm a committed conservative, but I didn't read this book looking for any political context. And neither does the author include one. However, one of the main points is that the mental homes run by the Quakers in the 1800s had a very good track record of actually helping people and they did so by caring for them as people - not patients with whom to experiment. Where it all went wrong was in the 1840s when the US government wanted to take the Quaker way and nationalize it. As with so many other things that are better left to private entities, the Fed was unable to replicate the Quaker methods en masse, caring doctors were replaced by budget-conscious bureaucrats, and the appalling "state hospitals" we know of today emerged.

The ensuing 150 years of lobotomies, electroshock therapy, Thorazine, and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" are a very ugly mark on our history. There is overwhelming evidence that despite the best healthcare system in the world, our mentally ill are far worse off for living in a society so obsessed with medication and less so than simple care. The US’s recovery rate of the mentally ill as compared to those in developing countries is abysmal.

Read this book. It’s disturbing, but will likely open your eyes to a world that is often overlooked by the political bickering that makes up most of our news broadcasts.

Favorite quote:
When Samual Pennypakcer vetoed a eugnenics bill that would have required the castration of the mentally ill, he rose to speak to the legislators whose bill he had vetoed. He said, "Gentlemen, gentlemen, you forget you owe me a vote of thanks. Didn't I veto the bill for the castration of idiots?" (p.59) ( )
  sergerca | Dec 5, 2010 |
Well written and a nice read, which I found unusual for a book like this. Eye-opening and informative history of the treatment of the mentally ill in England and America; very interesting if you would like to learn more about the relationships between psychology, drug companies, hospitals and the mentally ill in the US. ( )
  eenerd | Apr 12, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0738207993, Paperback)

Hot on the heels of an optimistic film about Nobelist John Nash's schizophrenic journey comes medical journalist Robert Whitaker's disturbing exposé of the cruel and corrupt business of treating mental illness in America. Mad in America begins by surveying three centuries of mental health treatments to discover why positive outcomes for schizophrenics in the U.S. for the last 25 years have decreased--making them lower than those in developing countries. Whitaker asks, "Why should living in a country with such rich resources and advanced medical treatments for disorders of every kind, be so toxic to those who are severely mentally ill?"

One of Whitaker's answers draws upon the historic and current assumptions of a physical cause for schizophrenia. This resulted in cruel and unusual physical treatments--from ice-water immersion and bloodletting to the more contemporary electroshock, lobotomy, and drug therapies with dangerous side effects. This physical cause model leads to Whitaker's more provocative explanation: that mental illness has become a profit center. He offers disturbing details about how good business for drug companies makes for bad medicine in treating schizophrenia. From drug companies skewing their studies and patient/subjects kept in the dark about experiments to the cozy relationship between the American Psychiatric Association and drug companies, Whitaker underlines the mistreatment of the mentally ill. This courageous and compelling book succeeds as both a history of our attitudes toward mental illness and a manifesto for changing them. --Barbara Mackoff

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Based on exhaustive research culled from old patient medical records, historical accounts, and government documents, this haunting book raises important questions about our obligations to the mad, what it means to be "insane." and what we value most about the human mind.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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