Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Science getting in the way of cure

The day program that Chris attended for two years denied the existence of all causes of psychosis, except in the case of street drugs. Periodically, someone connected with the local hospital or with the social services network would speak to the bi-weekly meeting of family and patients about the evils of pot and other recreational drugs. This enraged one of the mothers, who, barely holding back tears, objected to the constant focus on pot, which her daughter had never used.

Over the course of time that I attended these meetings, I began to feel that the interest of the wider medical/social welfare community in patients in the program verged on voyeurism and/or profiteering. It seemed like every two weeks a new “guest” was introduced at the meeting who was a researcher, or someone involved in drug prevention programs, or a visiting doctor from another treatment program. We were just lab rats, to be studied for someone else’s scientific interest. Where was the individual in all of this, to say nothing of the cure?

In the focus on cure, as opposed to science, little progress has been made by many. More than a hundred years ago, Daniel Paul Schreber, addressed his psychiatrist: “There would then be no need to cast any shadow upon your person and only the mild reproach would perhaps remain that you, like so many doctors, could not completely resist the temptation of using a patient in your care as an object for scientific experiments apart from the real purpose of cure, when by chance matters of the highest scientific interest arose.”
Daniel Paul Schreber, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness,” New York Review Books Classics (January 31, 2000)

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