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“Frontiers” of Medicine, Questionable Treatments and Imbeciles



Originally, I had intended to write about something which I find particularly barbaric; the medicating of children in the womb. If this sounds a bit odd to you, I share your sentiments entirely. When it is difficult, at best, to diagnose psychiatric illness in actual, living human beings standing or seated in front of you, how do you, in any conscience, good or bad, set yourself up to diagnose a fetus?

Fetuses, as we know, are the subject of quite a bit of ire on many sides and it is not my purpose to take a stand on the right-to-life movement or abortion. What does make my neck hairs stand on end is the setting up of fallible medical professionals as the arbiters of all things mentally defective (or “ill” if you prefer). Do you really know how difficult psychiatric diagnosis is and how poorly trained many people in the field are in this regard? Do you know the biases that enter into the evaluation, both conscious and unconscious? Do you know that some psychiatrists even refuse to use the DSM, the bible of psychiatry in diagnosis?

A favorite read of mine is Authentic Medicine, an online newsletter which rates the media’s interpretation of medical news, breakthroughs and blah, blah, blah. Recently, they ran something I can only think was a joke, but you do some searching and see for yourself if there truly are new drugs called Uterall XR and Placerta LA both of which are for treating ADHD in utero. Do you believe that?

When we are being told that ultrasound of pregnant women should be used sparingly and not just as a fun activity to watch a fetus squirm, why on earth would you, in any sanity, give drugs to this little being? Especially drugs meant to control a psychiatric impairment which many believe is more poor parenting or teachers’ insisting that kids be “calmed?”

I might see it as concomitant to raping the unborn. Almost all of these drugs, or probably ALL of these drugs for ADHD, are addictive and amphetamines in one form or another. Do you think this is healthy for a developing nervous system, heart and all other organs? I don’t. To me, it more than borders on malpractice, especially in a situation without any proof that these drugs are needed. How do you prove, people, that they are medically necessary?

I had intended to vent my Irish anger on the hubris of the medical profession, but a listing of a book on a possible recipients of a National Book Award website sent me off in another direction. The book, Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, reveals just how tawdry our judicial system can be when it comes to allegation of mental defect.

Supreme Court you say? How could SCOTUS side with people who wanted to not only institutionalize people, but sterilize them without any evidence of a need to do so? Read the book and open your eyes and look at the stellar names associated with this action to wipe out and cleanse the “defectives” or “feeble” from our society. Oh, and don’t forget to look at those with allegations of epilepsy. Yeah, they were put away, too.

As late as the early 70s states were mandating sterilization of those who would degrade our country’s culture, burden its healthcare system and be all-around drags on all of us who weren’t, of course, defective. Of course that means those of us with an education or a nice financial backing behind us. The two system of justice still work now, but not as blatantly as they once did with these mental institutions.

Reading, I began to recall a woman, many years ago, who had been placed in a psychiatric hospital (state, of course) at the age of four because she had epilepsy. Once in the hospital, the beneficent administrators found her to be mentally ill, defective and schizophrenic (SZ). Do you know that the Irish had more people declared with SZ than anyone else in the British Isles? Were they really persons with SZ or just Irish who wanted their freedom?

How did these fine professionals gauge this child’s mental capacity? I never saw any records that might have shown she had been given some form of testing and I can only assume they found it convenient to stamp her with SZ. That would insure payment by the state for her board and “treatment.” Read the O’Connor v. Donaldson SCOTUS case if you’re interested in the right to refuse treatment in a psychiatric hospital.

She would spend almost 70 years in that institution and come out into a world she found alien and frightening. Couldn’t open a car door, use a phone, write a greeting card note or even understand that you had to pay for things at a market. And her feet “talked” to her. Actually, she had painful bunions and had been trained to think she was delusional and heard voices from her feet.

The “treatment” aspect of some medical personnel is also questionable. When, at one psychiatric hospital, I noticed a new psychiatrist for our ward coming up the path with a textbook on general psychology under his arm, a chill came over me.

This guy knew nothing and he was going to evaluate, diagnose and medicate these people. But not to worry; they were all persons who would never leave the hospital, so what harm could he do? Well, he could probably help speed their trip to the grave. Improper prescribing of certain psychiatric medications can bring on sudden death even in young people. I’ve seen their feet sticking out from “quiet” rooms after a bout of too much lithium or the onset of neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Or even Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

But the book of which I speak outlines how a young woman, with normal intelligence, fell into a foster family where she became a hired-out home cleaner. Ultimately, when she had been raped by the nephew of the family, her pregnancy became an embarrassment and, since we know how promiscuous these defectives are, she had to be sent to an asylum. Off she went after a spate of lying by the family, no representation by an attorney and a judge who was more than willing to lock these unfortunates up for the good of society.

When you read the names of the people involved in this and other cases, you have to quickly read them again because it’s unbelievable. Who were they? Hang on to your seat. The men involved included Justice Brandeis, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said the law “had given him real pleasure,” Alexander Graham Bell, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The magazine, Cosmopolitan, praised the sterilization laws because they prevented the birth of “diseased or crippled or depraved.” How nice of them. That was, however, before the leadership of Helen Gurley Browne.

Does all of this eugenics stuff and isolation sound vaguely familiar to you? Sure it does. Think back to what happened to the Japanese-Americans during WWII and the Jews in Europe when Hitler came to power. Didn’t the German miscreant want to cleanse the Aryan race? Of course, he wasn’t even German but that’s a minor point.

We now have politicians who are urging quite similar things to keep our country pure somehow as though this melting pot needed their ablutions to return it to a pristine white, Angle-Saxon state again. The leader of the pack does have Germanic roots and an Americanized name.


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DR. PATRICIA A. FARRELL