Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill

by Robert Whitaker (Author)

Editorial Reviews

Hot on the heels of an optimistic film about Nobelist John Nash's schizophrenic
journey comes medical journalist Robert Whitaker's disturbing exposť 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.

From Publishers Weekly
Tooth removal. Bloodletting. Spinning. Ice-water baths. Electroshock therapy.
These are only a few of the horrifying treatments for mental illness readers
encounter in this accessible history of Western attitudes toward insanity.
Whitaker, a medical writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist, argues that mental
asylums in the U.S. have been run largely as "places of confinement facilities
that served to segregate the misfits from society rather than as hospitals that
provided medical care." His evidence is at times frightening, especially when he
compares U.S. physicians' treatments of the mentally ill to medical experiments
and sterilizations in Nazi Germany. Eugenicist attitudes, Whitaker argues,
profoundly shaped American medicine in the first half of the 20th century,
resulting in forced sterilization and other cruel treatments. Between 1907 and
1927, roughly 8,000 eugenic sterilizations were performed, while 10,000 mentally
ill Americans were lobotomized in the years 1950 and 1951 alone. As late as
1933, there were no states in which insane people could legally get married.
Though it covers some of the same territory as Sander Gilman's Seeing the Insane
and Elaine Showalter's The Female Malady, Whitaker's richer, more detailed book
will appeal to those interested in medical history, as well as anyone fascinated
by Western culture's obsessive need to define and subdue the mentally ill.

Product Details

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Perseus Publishing (April 15, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0738207993



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