Mad in America

History, Science, and the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders

Storytelling in the Age of Corporate Medicine (or more on being called an AIDS Denier)

Storytelling in the Age of Corporate Medicine

As a journalist, I long have been fascinated by reporting on the storytelling forces within American medicine that create societal understanding of the merits of its treatments. I write about this in my new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, and investigate whether the story told by American psychiatry about mental disorders and its drugs—i.e. that they are safe and effective agents that fix chemical imbalances in the brain—is consistent with the underlying science. In other words, I investigate whether the American public is being told an honest story, or one that serves the financial interests of psychiatry and the makers of the drugs.

Now my book was released on Tuesday, April 13, and the next day a review appeared in the Boston Globe, written by Dennis Rosen, an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Rosen also posted a link on his Psychology Today blog to his review, and then I posted a brief response. But as I mulled over the review some more, I realized that it neatly illustrates the story-telling process that I write about in the book. I thought about explaining how that is so on this site, for the subject --storytelling in the modern era of corporate medicine-- is an important one. But  my explanation is a long one, and much as Dr. Rosen pointed to his Boston Globe review of the book through a link, I thought it best to put up that explanation on a website that I have had since I wrote my first book, Mad in America. The post simply looks at whether the review, in its presentation of the book, does so with any accuracy, and the purpose that might be served by the review, in its final paragraph, likening me to an AIDS denier.

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Robert Whitaker is a journalist who writes mostly about medicine and science; his latest book is Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illnes more...

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