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Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare
Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare
by Peter Gotzsche
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In drugs we trust, 15 Feb. 2016
Gøtzsche is not using "organised crime" as a metaphor or allegory. He means what the title states literally: the pharmaceutical industry *is* organized crime.

The centerpiece of the US Organized Crime Control act from 1970 is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Racketeering is the act of engaging in a certain type of offense more than once. The list of offenses that constitute racketeering include extortion, fraud, federal drug offenses, bribery. embezzlement, obstruction of justice, obstruction of law enforcement, tampering with witnesses, and political corruption. Big pharma does so much of this all the time that there can be no doubt that its business model fulfils the criteria for organised crime.

Most of the book is an account of all the various ways that these offenses are committed. It differs from the many other books written on the subject (a few of which are reviewed on this site) in the quantity of details and sources. It is also more thorough by dealing with drugs directed at both somatic medicine and psychiatry. As the stack of books exposing pharma grows taller, the accusations grow bolder and more shocking.

The result of these crimes is a major onslaught on our health. "In the United States and Europe, [prescription] drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer." He doesn't mention the massive pollution of our water and food supplies by the excreted drugs.

Even if only a fraction of Gøtzsche’s claims were true, it would still demonstrate what a danger the medical-pharmaceutical industry poses to our health.

So what should we do about it? Like other authors, Gøtzsche cannot resist calling for better government regulation as though that has ever worked. He admits that "Government efforts to regulate fail utterly" and refers to a former FDA scientist who "spoke out about crimes and gangster methods at the agency." The European FDA, called EMA, fares no better.

To his credit, Gøtzsche does offer concrete suggestions on how to improve government regulation but the chances of his suggestions working are slim. As he himself points out, with so much money involved you must expect racketeering. Besides, regulation has to be legislated and "politicians understand so little that they usually only make the situation worse when they act." Anyway his proposals will not pass because the industry "buys influence over doctors, charities, patient groups, journalists and politicians..."

At some places in the book he comes close to realizing that it would be better to do away with watchdog agencies, and, for that matter, prescription laws, leaving regulation up to the individual. For instance, he points out that "If we wish to buy a car or a house, we may judge for ourselves whether it’s a good or a bad buy." Elsewhere he states, "The doctors cannot know about all the dangers, but the patients can. They can read the package insert..."

Gøtzsche does, however, provide some helpful tips on how the individual today can protect his health from pharma. They include:

Demedicalize, in other words, don't try to fix all your problems with a pill, not even physical ones.
Don't participate in screening programs (or routine health checks). "I surely have cancer, as cancer can be demonstrated in all of us who are above 50, if only we are investigated thoroughly enough" he states, hinting that not every tumor requires treatment.
Don't take drugs to treat surrogate outcomes. That means that people who take such drugs have improved test results for measurable matters as blood pressure, glucose, or cholesterol, but statistically increased rather than decreased chance of dying. Too bad he didn't include HIV-inhibitors in this list. Apparently he believes in AIDS.
Avoid new drugs. He suggests the first seven years they are on the market, but that sounds short to this reviewer, as the harms of so many drugs became known to the general public after a much longer interval. Perhaps twenty years would be better, though it may be difficult to find an older drug when you need it, as the industry likes to withdraw off-patent drugs from the market.

His advice to "ask your doctor whether he or she receives money or other benefits from the industry" sounds rather useless as you can't trust your physician to tell you the truth. Nor is such a question likely to improve his/her goodwill towards you.

Gøtzsche ends by mocking himself with a cartoon of a mobster who resents being compared to the drug industry, which kills many more people than the mob does.

Who should read this book? Anyone who is still unconvinced about how unreliable medical science is, how corrupt the pharmaceutical industry is, or how harmful most drugs prescribed are.

Copyright © MeTZelf

The Hysterectomy Hoax: The Truth About Why Many Hysterectomies are Unnecessary and How to Avoid Them
The Hysterectomy Hoax: The Truth About Why Many Hysterectomies are Unnecessary and How to Avoid Them
by Stanley West
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There might be a lot more choice, 29 Dec. 2015
The word Hoax in the title apparently refers to the medical teaching that a woman needs her sexual organs solely for reproduction.

Only cancer, the author posits, justifies removing a female organ, and even then conservative surgery may suffice. Many women are frightened into submitting to removal of their uterus when their doctor wrongly tells them that their condition is likely to be or turn malignant. Fibroids, for instance, are extremely common and do not become cancerous.

Himself an experienced gynecological surgeon, the author lists reasons for his colleagues’ eagerness to perform hysterectomies. It is what they were taught in medical school, are skilled at doing, earn well with, can bill the insurance companies for without hassle, and even use to train their students.

Sadly, hysterectomies are still as rampant today as they were when this book was first published. Professional recognition of the aftereffects of such an operation, passed off by most physicians as "all in your head," was just beginning to emerge even in the year of the third edition. At the same time the drawbacks of many of the modern alternatives the author describes will by now be better known, perhaps reducing the value of this publication for a woman trying to decide on a treatment today.

Another impediment to decision which the author realistically mentions is finding a surgeon willing to provide alternative treatments and skilled at performing them. In addition, insurance companies are reluctant to pay for them because hysterectomy is cheaper and precludes future gynecological treatments. A woman’s choice is therefore more limited than this book suggests. However when her symptoms are not all too unbearable nor malignant, this book can help her say NO to hysterectomy.

Being written by a physician, the book carries the weight of authority that a lay person cannot attain no matter how knowledgeable and experienced she is on the subject. Yet it is an easy read devoid of excessive medical jargon, perhaps thanks to the coauthor who is a professional writer on the subject of women’s health. The Hysterectomy Hoax is therefore recommended reading for every women who has been told she needs a hysterectomy.

Copyright © MeTZelf

The H Word: The diagnostic studies to evaluate symptoms, alternatives in treatment, and coping with the aftereffects of hysterectomy.
The H Word: The diagnostic studies to evaluate symptoms, alternatives in treatment, and coping with the aftereffects of hysterectomy.
by Rick Schweikert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unwarranted female sexual mutilation, 18 Dec. 2015
The H word is hysterectomy.

Coffey underwent hysterectomy and oophorectomy against her wishes and without medical necessity. We are not told when but from the text we can infer it was in the early eighties of the 20th century. We are also not told her age, but her children were still young. Enraged by the injustice of what happened to her, she dedicated the rest of her life to educating women and anyone else who will listen about female anatomy and the damage done by mutilating it. To this end she founded and directs the HERS Foundation.

Schweikert is a realtor Coffey happened to meet in 2002 regarding an unrelated issue. He took an immediate interest in Coffey's activism. To support it, he wrote a play called un becoming.

The two decided to dedicate a year of their lives to bringing their activism to every state of the US. We aren't told directly which year it was, but from hints in the text we can surmise 2003-2004. The Wikipedia entry when modified on 30 August 2014 (which may have been edited by Coffey herself) gave the year as 2004-2005. Wikipedia as well as Amazon state that The H Word was published in 2009 whereas the date in the book is 2008. These discrepancies are trivial; I'm mentioning them only to clarify that this is the same publication.

The book chronicles the authors' actions and experiences. They picketed hospitals, distributed flyers, and produced the play, apparently every day of that year, even on public holidays. Along the way they met and heard the personal accounts of many (families of) women who have had experiences similar to Coffey's. They also encountered physicians and medical students. Some were sympathetic to their cause, many were hostile, most just ignored it.

Sandwiched between the narrative is the excellent information promised by the subtitle.

A third of all women in the United States have undergone hysterectomy by the time they are 60, almost always unnecessarily. Uterine cancer, the only condition that would justify such an invasive operation, is actually quite rare. The same is true for ovarian cancer, yet the ovaries, too, are often amputated. Coffey repeatedly reminds the reader that the ovaries are the gonads, corresponding to the testes in men, so removing them is castration. She might have punctuated this claim by explaining that the first six weeks of an embryo's life the gonads are identical -- they will begin to differentiate into testicles or ovaries only later.

The rate of cancer of the sexual organs is nearly the same in men and women, yet the rate of surgical intervention in men is but a tiny fraction of that in women. Proliferation of female gynecologists in recent decades has not reduced the rate of hysterectomies and oophorectomies. The authors aptly point out that western society is affronted by female circumcision, nowadays often called female genital mutilation, but remains silent and unaware of the large-scale unwarranted mutilation and amputation of the internal female sexual organs in its own midst.

Apparently in the US consent forms must be signed before any surgical procedure is done. These forms are designed to protect the surgeon and hospital against litigation. They essentially give carte blanche to surgeons to perform any procedure they wish. Consent women give, or their husbands give while the wife is anesthetized, is based on duress and misinformation.

The authors deserve praise for their courage in locking horns with the huge, powerful, wealthy, and privileged medical establishment. It is important to mention that they are not calling for an all-out ban on hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Their objection is to pressure tactics by gynecologists and their failure to provide information that corresponds with the reality of women who have undergone these amputations.

Much to their credit, the authors acknowledge the role of invasive, unnecessary, and damaging surgery in other medical fields as well, specifically lobotomy. There is also a brief mention of nazi medical crimes.

This book is wonderful for women wishing to identify with other women who have been gynecologically violated. Readers interested in the medical information only will find it more conveniently accessible on the HERS Foundation's excellent website. The 'donate' button is modestly tucked away at the bottom.

Copyright © MeTZelf

Persoonlijke diagnostiek in een nieuwe GGZ: de DSM-5 voorbij!
Persoonlijke diagnostiek in een nieuwe GGZ: de DSM-5 voorbij!
by Jim Van Os
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatrist feels sorry for himself, 19 July 2015
Some books have a subtitle. This one has a super-title. Original!

In the first section of three Van Os sketches what is wrong with the DSM. Criticism of the DSM has been amply published in the English language since the eighties when that book adopted the authoritative form that it still has. You can find many reviews of books that criticize the DSM on this site. Van Os's criticism is not original, which is evidenced among other ways by his not penning two consecutive sentences without snobby English terms. He doesn't bother to provide a list of definitions for the Dutch language reader.

In the second section Van Os groans about the bureaucracy to which his profession is subjected. There's hardly any snobby English in this part. He claims "Working in the MHS has practically become a form of voluntary slavery," and "Autonomy and own responsibility have to be sacrificed because the government and health care insurers prefer to work with a quantitative system based on coercion." Poppycock. Nobody is forcing Van Os to work as a psychiatrist in the MHS. If he doesn't fancy the requirements of his profession, he can do something else.

In the third and last section Van Os sketches what he thinks psychiatry should look like. Among other things he proposes shuffling the diagnostic categories and criteria. It remains unclear how his system would overcome his own objection to the current order -- "We don't well know where psychiatric complaints come from nor how we should influence them." His proposals are no more legitimate than the way it is now. For example, he often mentions psychoses without any explanation what they are or how they can be objectively identified, let alone ruled out. Similarly, he differentiates between light and serious psychoses but nowhere does he clarify how these can be distinguished from each other.

He also wants multiple institutions to be involved in care instead of all services having to be taken from one institution. He doesn't seem aware that clients are already ping-ponged around among different care providers, diffusing the care providers' responsibility. Nowhere does he discuss keeping costs down. He reviles "market forces" as though there really were a free MHS market. Apparently he expects the taxpayer to give him a blank check.

Van Os's biggest blunder, however, is not mentioning the foundation on which psychiatry stands: deprivation of liberty. It doesn't matter one iota that the DSM categories aren't legitimate because such a sham diagnosis is only necessary to circumvent human rights when detaining people who are considered troublesome by somebody.

In psychiatry, acknowledging deprivation of liberty is taboo. Van Os dutifully keeps to this. Even though he casts doubt on whether the diagnoses in the DSM are real diseases, he writes about "patients" and "people in psychic distress" as though people only submit themselves to psychiatry of their own accord. Yet he betrays himself by occasionally referring to solitary confinement cells (which are standard in Dutch psychiatry) and (involuntary) medication. He objects to neither. He only posits that (involuntary) medication should be discontinued after a while, as though that were possible. Successfully stopping psychiatric drugs is about as common as successfully sewing back a wrongly amputated organ.

How many people in the Netherlands are involuntarily committed is unknown. Nobody is counting, or if somebody is, the number is being kept secret. Statistics wouldn't show a reliable picture anyway. People often remain in psychiatry their entire lives "voluntarily" after an involuntary commitment that deprived them of their home, job, family life, management of their own finances, social networks, physical health, and mental clarity. That's like breaking the wings and legs of a bird, opening the cage door, and concluding that the animal is remaining in the cage of its own free choice.

In addition, psychiatry is inflicted on all sorts of people who are incapable of resisting, from preschoolers through disabled people to the elderly. It is also made a condition for accessing services such as assisted living.

It is true that the MHS offers a limited amount of "psychotherapy" but that only pulls the wool over people's eyes. Without a sham diagnosis there can be no psychotherapy -- MHS workers are not volunteers and have to be able to bill the system for their services. Once such a sham diagnosis is registered in the medical file any opposition can be stifled by threatening involuntary commitment. Van Os doesn't mention any of this.

Towards the end of the book, Van Os comments that "...many patients, previously seriously disabled, tell you that they recovered on the basis of for instance a diet, vitamins, a guru's lifestyle insights, breathing exercises, a commune based on eastern philosophy ... it is possible that people experienced important improvement [thanks to quackery] ... because there they found a style of bedside manner and encouragement for self-management that is missing in the mainstream MHS." His intended criticism of the way people in the MHS are treated lacks logic. The people to whom he refers cannot have been "seriously disabled" or they would not have been capable of locating an alternative healer. Whatever their real or perceived ailment was, the success of the quacks, as Voltaire is purported to have said, is "the art of keeping the patient amused while nature heals his illness." Quacks achieve that without deprivation of liberty or dangerous drugs because they lack the legal power to so afflict their clients. Nowhere in the book does Van Os suggest removing his own and his colleagues' legal powers of detention and prescription.

Obviously Voltaire's proposed entertainment will not do for everybody. People with real disabilities need practical support. The most expensive, least effective, and most dehumanizing way to offer it is through the MHS.

Instead of falsely portraying himself as a victim and the MHS as a "free market" Van Os could better have pointed out that without psychiatric coercion, pharmaceutical backing, and a socialist payment system (also in the US) the DSM would have remained a thin, obscure booklet.

Copyright © MeTZelf

The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed
The Virus and the Vaccine: The True Story of a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus, Contaminated Polio Vaccine, and the Millions of Americans Exposed
by Debbie Bookchin
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Monkeys' Revenge, 1 Jun. 2015
One of my earliest recollections dates back to when I was a preschooler in the mid fifties. My parents took me to my brother's school, where we entered what to me seemed like a huge hall. It was crowded with other children and their parents. In the middle of the hall stood a row of long tables, end to end. Enormous trays of pink-dotted sugar cubes, stacked up like little building blocks, covered the tables. As already then I had a sweet tooth, little effort was required to persuade me to eat a sugar cube. From that memorable moment until I read this book, I was mercifully unaware that the pink dot contained an extract of ... minced monkey kidney.

The main character and villain of this book is SV40. The S stands for simian, a fancy word for monkey. The V stands for virus. The number 40 expresses that this is the fortieth simian virus claimed to be discovered. The first thirty-nine are considered innocuous. We are not told whether there ever was a forty-first, though there is mention of several variants of SV40.

Salk and Sabin, whose names we associate with the polio vaccine, are mentioned frequently. So are many lesser known virologists and researchers. The ones the authors (a married couple, according to the back) admire are described in detail, including their looks, their birthplace, their ancestry, their personalities, and even their habits.

Although long lists of sources are provided, the text is devoid of distracting footnotes. On the other hand an inconsistency in font size, apparently a printing bug, does distract.

As the plot unfolds, SV40 is discovered stowing away in Sabin's polio vaccine. This would mean that he loses his competition with Salk, were it not that afterward the same stowaway is discovered in Salk's vaccine too. Then is found a "body" ... tumors that proliferate around the site of injection. SV40 is accused of causing a killer cancer, albeit so far only in laboratory rodents.

The government's virus police respond by defending the suspect. There is no stowaway. The careless researchers are seeing reflections. And anyway SV40 is harmless to humans.

They are no doubt sincere. It is their job to protect the public against the evil of illness. No one would want to see the return of polio. They are of course also understandably not eager to admit they let a murderer slip by on their watch. Furthermore, there is a multimillion dollar business to protect. And the geneticists, like philosophers, are on their side. Isn't the source of all evil in the genes?

Meanwhile SV40 is reportedly showing up in the tumors of humans of all ages, even decades after it is believed to have been eradicated from the vaccine. Is it being transmitted to children before birth by their vaccinated mothers? Or is it transmitted through sexual contact? Is the vaccine not cleared of the virus after all? Or has it always existed in the human population?

The authors express certainty about SV40's guilt. A judge may be more inclined to allow it the benefit of doubt. When you have to magnify a thing fifty thousand times to see it, the chance that you are misinterpreting what you see is about as large as the chance of being wrong that an "Egyptian funerary carving from the eighteenth dynasty (1580 - 1350 B.C.E.) portrays a priest with a withered limb [due to polio]." Detections made by complicated computers are as likely to be reliable as computer-generated translations. The claim that SV40 "turns off tumor suppressor genes known as p53" is made as glibly as though an intruder is caught red-handed turning off the burglar-alarm. Labeling it "the most potent human carcinogens that we know" makes it sound like Jack the Ripper. The rise of a particular rare type of cancer "from near zero in the mid 1950s to several thousand cases annually in the 1990s" could have reasons other than exposure to polio vaccine, for instance new diagnostic criteria or a vast increase in toxins in the air, water, or food chain. Missing, probably because it was never done, is an epidemiological study comparing the incidence of disease believed to be caused by SV40 in the general population to that in populations who do not vaccinate on principle.

Concern for the welfare of the monkeys is not an issue dealt with in this book though there is mention of difficulty obtaining shipments of Rhesus monkeys from northern India because the local population consider them holy.

So is or is not SV40 from the polio vaccine a killer? On the basis of this book, I remain undecided. It was certainly stupid of governments across the globe to expose the majority of the human population to a substance of which the long-term effects could not possibly have been known. Thanks to luck, not governmental regulation, humanity was spared from annihilation. Even if the allegations against SV40 are true, it can hardly be considered a mass murderer compared to the massive opportunity thrust upon it. The deaths attributed to it are rare, which of course does not console the individuals so affected and their families.

Contrary to most books I review, this one ends with conclusions that I fully endorse:

"The decisions of our health policy makers, even when well intentioned, are not always enlightened. And sometimes those decisions are not even well intentioned. Sometimes they are based on bias or inadequate scientific evidence. Sometimes they are influenced by the close relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the government health officials who are charged with regulating that industry. Moreover, sometimes even the best scientists can make mistakes. The safest medical products can have unforeseen side effects ... For that reason, individuals, not governments, must maintain the right to control what medical procedures they and their children undergo and what pharmaceuticals they consume."

Copyright © MeTZelf

Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It
Bad Pharma: How Medicine is Broken, and How We Can Fix It
by Ben Goldacre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good observations, bad conclusions, 18 Aug. 2014
"The most expensive doctors in the world can only make decisions about your care on the basis of the evidence publicly available to them" states Goldacre in the introduction. The rest of the book details the various ways in which that evidence is skewed or missing. If you are only now beginning to follow the debate about the pharmaceutical industry, this book is a good choice due to its thoroughness.

By the time I finished reading it -- it's not the kind of book you can't put down -- hundreds of reviews of it have appeared on the Internet, including a fine one on Wikipedia. There's no point in my repeating what others have said, so I'll concentrate on the aspect that other reviewers seem to overlook, namely illogic.

To be fair, there is a lot of good logic in the book. The author displays healthy skepticism, so in that sense he is way ahead of most other physicians. One wonders how with all this insight, he can continue in his profession. That is contradiction number one. More follow.

"The regulators and professional bodies we would reasonably expect to stamp out such practices have failed us," and "These [voluntary] policies don't [work]," he writes. What, then, is the point of advocating for more regulations and policies?

"[R]umours, oversimplifications and wishful thinking can spread through the academic literature, just as easily as they do through any internet discussion forum." Why then, doesn't he oppose the power accorded to the academically educated medical profession? Same question, different quote: "It would be wrong to imagine that patients are unique in being manipulated by the way figures on risk and benefit are presented. In fact, exactly the same result has been found repeatedly in experiments looking at doctors' prescribing decisions, and even the purchasing decisions of health authorities, where you would expect to find numerate doctors and managers, capable of calculating risk and benefit."

In the same vein: "I ... wish that this book could teach you everything you need to know [to make decisions about which treatment is best for you entirely by yourself], but the reality is that medical decision making requires a lot of specialist knowledge and skills, which take time and practice to acquire at a safe level of competence, and there's a serious risk of [you] making very bad decisions." You'd never guess that a mere 5 1/2 pages before this outrageously arrogant argument, he writes, "If doctors were forced to admit to the uncertainties in our day-to-day management of patients, it might make us a little more humble." He lists ten samples of illegitimate prescription considerations which I omit for the sake of brevity. Elsewhere he writes, "[I]t would take six hundred hours a month to read the thousands of academic articles relevant to being a GP alone," and "The most expensive doctors in the world don't know any better than anyone else." So where is all this competence that justifies physician's power over other people?

Goldacre proposes embedding trials in clinical practice, thereby pooling statistics on "real-world" patients from "routinely collected electronic health records." But such records rarely tell a complete story. Doctors generally do not follow up on their prescriptions. <<Hello Mrs. Smith. Are you still taking those pink pills I prescribed last week (or: last year)? Are you feeling better now? Or worse?>> Unless Mrs. Smith is incarcerated or being compulsorily drugged, her physician doesn't know whether she took the pills as prescribed, claims to have taken them but didn't, started taking them but stopped, never picked them up from the pharmacy, or gave them away to her neighbor's mother-in-law who was completely cured by them. This is the same kind of methodological sloppiness that he rightly criticizes when drug researchers do it.

Another: "Direct-to-consumer drug advertising ... distort doctor's prescribing behaviour [because patients demand the drugs in the ads]," yet "Clopidogrel came to market in 1999 with no advertising, and was used widely, with no advertising, until 2001. Then the drug company introduced television advertising, spending $350 million in total. Oddly, this had no impact on the number of people taking the drug..." Why is that odd? And even if an increase were measured in the number of people taking the drug, who's to say that not the physicians are influenced by these same ads on TV?

Tantalizingly, Goldacre makes sweeping, slandering statements about "conspiracy theorists" and denies being one. Google defines conspiracy as "a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful." This is precisely how Goldacre characterizes the pharmaceutical industry. Why doesn't he proudly assume the role of conspiracy theorist like Robert S. Mendelsohn called himself a "Medical Heretic"?

But Goldacre's most glaring inconsistency is in lashing out at the pharmaceutical industry while not questioning modern medicine's reliance on pills. He opposes testing drugs against placebos in spite of the fact that placebos regularly outperform active drugs. What better indication can there be that it is time to overthrow the pill-for-ill paradigm? He accuses us: "[A] lot of patients have been persuaded ... that pills fix things." Haven't physicians been persuaded of the same? A person who is sick, disabled, elderly, or dying is more likely to realize that what he needs is hands-on care than the physician, for the simple reason that the physician's profession is prescribing pills, not providing hands-on care.

To illustrate how naive even an insightful physician can be, I close with the following quote from the book: "Each person with schizophrenia ... may find that serious relapses damage their lives, costing them their home, job or friendships, and so they might choose to tolerate some side effects..." Since when are people with the presumed condition of schizophrenia free to make their own drug choices? What are their "relapses" other than withdrawal from drugs they never should have been prescribed? What can damage their lives more than the disabling and disfiguring consequences of psychiatric drugs? Did ever a grosser medical understatement make it into print than calling the consequences of this poisoning "some side effects"? And how many people drugged for "schizophrenia" have "homes, jobs, or friendships"? Really now, Benny, get a life -- but not mine.

Copyright © MeTZelf

The Gene Illusion - Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope
The Gene Illusion - Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope
by Jay Joseph
Edition: Paperback
Price: £25.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposing research designed to justify prejudice, 28 May 2014
Belief that social inferiority is inherited through genes proliferated in the educated classes before any research on the matter was ever done. The father of professional prejudice cloaked as science was Francis Galton, cousin to Charles Darwin, to this day hailed as a great medical scientist. He called this field "eugenics". It was Galton who suggested the utility of twin research though he undertook none himself. That he left to his successors such as Josef Mengele. After WWII embarrassing revelations of mass murder in the name of eugenics prompted those engaged in this field to change the name to "genetics". This type of research goes on until this very day. I have personally seen with my own eyes in 2014 a mailing from my country's twins registry reminding subjects to fill in and return questionnaires.

Joseph does an exhaustive and thorough job of pointing out the methodological flaws of twin research, too numerous to mention in this review. The same he does for adoption studies. Moreover, he questions the morality of even embarking on such research, considering the consequences for the personal lives of so many people and that "conclusions are shaped to fit ideological ends." For example, "[Suppose] research ... found that more Jews than non-Jews had [genes] associated with greed? Wouldn't there be a justifiable uproar that such research was even being done?"

He did not however mention another form of injustice that shouted to me from the pages: gross intrusion of the researchers into the lives of their subjects, and obscene violation of their privacy. Volunteer? Of course not. States provided the researchers with apparently unlimited access to files in psychiatric institutions, adoptions agencies, criminal courts, and the population registry, among others.

Modestly, the author proposes only two suggestions for improvement, namely the establishment of research registers and reduction of the importance attached to researchers' conclusions. Personally I doubt his suggestions will do much good. The registers are too easily circumvented or misled. Diminishing the importance of research results will not happen due to "powerful and well-connected interests promoting political, professional, and business agendas" as he himself points out elsewhere.

Joseph himself, of course, is not entirely free of self-interest. According to the back flap, he's a practicing clinical psychologist. In the nature/nurture debate, it is auspicious for him to come down solidly on the side of nurture, blaming people's misfortunes on such factors as upbringing and even capitalism (!). He does at one point briefly acknowledge that factors other than either nature or nurture could be of influence. But he clearly overlooks the MeTZelf point of view, namely that we can never identify with certainty the cause of what we perceive as deviant human behavior.

Copyright © MeTZelf

Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry
Our Necessary Shadow: The Nature and Meaning of Psychiatry
by Tom Burns
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Psychiatry is wonderful because I say so, 24 July 2013
"I wrote this book to give an understanding of what psychiatry is, what it can do and what it cannot do." With this explanation the author starts his introduction. He goes on to acknowledge that zillions of books have already been written on the subject representing a broad spectrum of views for and against psychiatry. "[W]hich should you believe? Should you believe either? Is it perhaps possible to believe both?...I hope to clarify some of these contradictions so you can decide for yourself. ... I hope I have succeeded in conveying both sides of the debate." Yet the reader knows what Burns wants him to conclude before opening the book: we need psychiatry. The title says so.

Why do we need psychiatry? Because, according to Burns, it works. He repeats this sentiment in a variety of wordings scores of times throughout the book. How it works, how often it works, and how its efficacy is determined he mentions nowhere. "I made a decision to keep this book free of references" he states in the acknowledgments even ahead of the introduction. Fair enough. A reference makes a statement look scholarly but doesn't make it true. However if you're going to rest your entire case on this one claim, expecting the reader to accept it on faith won't do. In fact I don't. Psychiatry does not work, ever. Nobody gets better from it, only worse. My source for this is the testimony of my own eyes and ears.

"Establishing and sustaining a trusting relationship with a troubled and suspicious patient is a skill," he posits, suggesting that psychiatrists have this skill. "It is simply not the case that psychiatrists only focus on symptoms and prescribing pills." This is not fact, it is propaganda. In my country some psychiatrists never even meet the "patient" but rather base their opinions about him/her on discussions with the nursing staff and social workers. When there is actual contact between psychiatrist and "patient" it more likely adversarial than "trusting".

This type of propaganda continues in Chapter 1, entitled "What to expect if you are referred to a psychiatrist" in which Burns makes all sorts of claims for psychiatrists' skills and abilities such as "intuition" and "see[ing] through ... emotional understatement" being "slow to pass judgment" and "feel[ing]" when someone is depressed. He sums up with "I think psychiatrists as a group tend to be warmer, more approachable and more understanding than most doctors."

Chapter 2, The origins of institutional psychiatry, presents some history and ends with more propaganda: "a mini-revolution with the introduction of new and dramatically effective specific interventions."

In Chapter 3, The discovery of the unconscious, he states "Mesmer's methods seem like so much hocus-pocus today but they were a radical break with a superstitious past." Is hocus-pocus not superstitious? "The magnetizers ... established that we have ideas and memories of which we are not conscious." They didn't establish that, they claimed it. Such claims justify the psychiatrist attributing to his "patient" thoughts and memories that he does not have. Thoughts and memories are by definition consciousness. Unconsciousness is precisely the absence of thought and memory such as during a coma or general anesthesia. "[T]he reality of an unconscious mind has been accepted by most professionals working in the field." That doesn't make it exist.

"The rise and fall of psychoanalysis" occupies Chapter 4, the fall being brought about by "effective antipsychotics and antidepressants." It is true that some people manage to hang on to their ordinary lives for many years while taking antidepressants -- which are synthetic cocaine -- just as other people manage to do so while taking real cocaine (for instance Sigmund Freud and popular Washington DC mayor Marion Barry). But "antipsychotics"? I have yet to meet someone on these drugs whose life is not utterly destroyed.

Chapter 5 deals with a variety of (mis)treatments introduced during the interwar period, such as malaria, insulin shock and ECT. Burns believes in the efficacy of ECT and plugs it several times throughout the book. About insulin shock he states, "The apparently wonderful earlier outcomes are now thought to be due to unintentional selection of patients most likely to recover and optimistic attitudes of the staff caring for them." More likely reports on "wonderful outcomes" were based on wishful thinking, as are the wonderful outcomes Burns himself reports in his book. Such untruths are the mainstay of psychiatry.

Chapter 6 deals with The impact of war, and contains some valid observations. "Big personalities have always had a disproportionate effect on the course of psychiatric advances." If the word advances is changed to practices that is certainly true.

Chapter 7 deals with the transition from coercion in large institutions to coercion "in the community" made possible according to Burns (and other psychiatrists) by the "drug revolution." He neglects to mention that budget cuts, not drugs, emptied the institutions. He calls this shift "our strongest assurance against the abuse and poor practice that have disfigured periods of our history." Were this but true. For the unwanted, battered, and homeless "in the community" means that they are now denied the one service that they ever really needed: shelter. Furthermore shooting people up with depot neuroleptics (misleadingly called antipsychotics) and not sticking around to watch them deteriorate helps blind psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to the harm they do. Poisoning people and subsequently leaving them on their own and helpless in this condition is no less abuse and poor practice than what went on in the institutions of yore (and still goes on).

In the chapter exploring psychiatry's legitimacy Burns discusses some of its best-known critics, Foucault, Goffman, Szasz, and Laing. (There were and still are many others.) Although he heads this section "The rise of anti-psychiatry" he acknowledges that none of these critics considered themselves anti-psychiatrists, nor were they part of a coordinated movement, but rather each was highly individualistic. That's a refreshing improvement compared to other authors who sweep all of these names under the same carpet. Ten points for Burns. He credits them with "leaving a lasting legacy both within the profession and in our wider understanding of the human condition." He is least enamored of Szasz, although I am impressed that contrary to many other opponents of Szasz, Burns has actually read at least some of his books and made an honest attempt to understand his point of view. He states "I find him deliberately simplistic." That is true and Szasz was aware of it. He called it his "shorthand". Burns further finds fault with Szasz for rigidly adhering to the view that there can be no "real illness" in the absence of an identifiable physical cause. Here too Burns has a valid point. When we don't know the cause of a strange behavior, and we usually don't, it is just as wrong to assume the absence of a physical cause as it is to assume the presence of a physical cause. But then Burns pulls a fast one on us. He asks rhetorically "What would Szasz have made of the accumulating evidence of relative over- and under-activity of neurotransmitters in various psychiatric disorders?" We don't have to wonder, we know exactly what Szasz made of it. What do you make of the fact that no such evidence exists? There isn't even a method for determining the activity of neurotransmitters in human beings. Burns has already admitted in Chapter 1 that the only lab tests done in psychiatry are to monitor the effects of the chronic poisoning. The role of neurotransmitters is theory and conjecture, not fact, promoted by the pharmaceutical industries to justify selling their products. Burns then continues to criticize Scientologists for their controversial therapies as though Szasz were somehow responsible for them. Although Szasz agreed to lend his name to Scientology's offshoot Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, he was not a Scientologist and didn't believe in Scientology.

Next comes a chapter in which Burns attempts to expose some of what he considers the sins of psychiatry. He is to be commended for mentioning the T-4 program, albeit briefly. Most psychiatrists know nothing about it. Under the header "Psychotherapy oversteps the line" he states about certain non-mainstream therapies "Having submitted yourself to something that is gruelling and unpleasant there is a strong incentive to believe it works." Why would this be true for alternative psychotherapies and not for ECT?

In a chapter dealing with psychiatry and the law he makes some fair points. "[C]ourts want all the help they can get." The contribution of psychiatrists in perverting the course of justice is mentioned in a different chapter in the discussion of recovered memory syndrome, but could have been mentioned here too. Even if somebody really is crazy, that does not prove he committed the crime in question. "Psychiatry seems to be safer when it restricts itself to 'abnormalities' or differences that are obvious even to the layperson." In other words, lay people can judge that someone is crazy just as well. A very valid point regarding law he makes in a later chapter. "The wording in [compulsory treatment] legislation is convoluted and, frankly, rarely bears careful scrutiny." In other words, the content of coercion laws is irrelevant, as neither psychiatrists nor judges respect the safeguards for human rights. They don't have to. They aren't accountable to anybody.

We're nearing the end. The next chapter is "A diagnosis for everything." Most psychiatrists agree that the DSM, a thick catalog of diagnoses, goes over the top. But few campaign for abandoning it, and neither does Burns. He would be happy to shrink it. Like so many others authors in the field, he has his pet (non)diseases. "I have never come across a diagnosis of caffeine-induced insomnia." Burns would also like to see addictions and personality disorders tossed out, not because they don't exist but because the people who answer to these criteria are annoying and psychiatrists don't know how to deal with them. He's rather naive to imagine that abolishing categories from the DSM will change anything. Psychiatrists will simply resume labeling annoying people schizophrenic like they did before the DSM introduced special categories to accommodate them. And psychiatrists will continue drugging them into oblivion like they do everyone else. He continues "One in ten of ten-year-old boys in the USA ... is currently prescribed stimulants for ADHD. Now, wherever the threshold should lie ... this level surely cannot make sense." What should USA child-psychiatrists do, apply some sort of scale, and prescribe stimulants only to the top (or bottom) percentage that makes sense to Burns? If "One in ten cannot make clinical sense" then what doesn't make sense is the clinic (diagnosis and treatment).

The last chapter (except for a brief epilogue) is the apparently obligatory prediction of the future, which he calls "The rise of neuroscience." I will not fault the author for it as such chapters always contain nonsense -- nobody can predict the future. Thankfully he does have some very welcome news for us. "The main threat to psychiatry's survival may ... be ... a dramatic fall in the number of doctors choosing to go into it. ... Most doctors coming into psychiatry in [the USA and UK] are foreign graduates ... who are often disappointed by not being able to get surgical or medical jobs." I haven't noticed this influx of foreign graduates in the Netherlands but that could be because they don't speak Dutch. Nonetheless we too have a supposed shortage of psychiatrists. Perhaps fewer physicians are willing to spend their careers making and keeping people sick and disabled by poisoning them. If this shortage does herald the end of psychiatry, it is a terrible pity that it is taking so long.

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Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs
Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs
by Stuart A. Kirk
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £48.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How many readers must one book have?, 29 April 2013
If you are planning to read only one book about what's wrong with psychiatry, this one is an excellent choice, provided you are proficient in academic English.

The weathered critic of psychiatry will not find any freshly uncovered facts or novel points of view in this book. As the authors themselves state in a footnote, "Writings critical of psychiatric thinking and practice run in the hundreds if not thousands." What makes this one so worthy of appreciation is the way the arguments are organized, without the excessive emotionality or lapses of logic that mar other books on the subject.

Proceeding through the history of psychiatry, the authors explain that how it has always been portrayed to us is not how it really is. Psychiatry doesn't eradicate disease the way vaccinations or antibiotics do. If it did, there would be increasingly fewer people with psychiatric diagnoses, instead of exponentially more. Programs to treat people while living in the community are just as coercive as the state hospitals of the past. The criteria for psychiatric diagnoses are neither reliable nor valid. Psychiatric drugs are no more effective than placebos. "Since the very beginnings of hospital psychiatry, an 'effective' treatment was one that could disable the person receiving it." The authors do not oppose taking drugs, they only oppose forcing people to take them or stop taking them.

Like most critics of psychiatry, the authors end their writing by suggesting an alternative. Unlike most critics, the alternative they suggest has not yet been tried and proven ineffective. Their alternative is that psychiatrists should not be allowed to coerce people, write prescriptions, or gate-keep public services. Hurray.

Being right and well-written are fine literary qualities, but they don't protect the vulnerable among us from pseudo-medical imprisonment and chemical abuse, just as another widely read and respected book extolling the virtue of chastity failed to protect the most vulnerable members of the church from sexual abuse. Priests take vows of celibacy but are not castrated. Likewise, psychiatrists vow to do no harm, but are not divested of the privileges, not to mention profits, that tempt them to ignore the falsity of their profession's claims. As the authors acknowledge, psychiatry is "too big to fail." The vested interests of various powerful parties are simply too huge.

In my opinion real improvement will come only when the bulk of the lay public, and in their wake politicians and judges, lose faith in psychiatry. This book will open their eyes, but only if they read it.

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Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families
Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families
by Peter R. Breggin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £45.99

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent plan that won't work, 30 Dec. 2012
Help! How do I get my child/spouse/parent/sibling/self off of psychiatric drugs? This is the question most often asked by people contacting MeTZelf. It is also the question most often asked of psychiatrist and prolific author Peter Breggin. This is his second book attempting to answer it.

The first book is titled Your Drug May Be Your Problem: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications, written with David Cohen and first published in 1999. There seems to have been at least one revised edition. Most of that book is dedicated to the Why, rather than the How, and so is most of this new book. Breggin is careful to not assume that his reader already knows how damaging these drugs always are.

Previously having written extensively about damage to the brain and central nervous system, he now uses the term chronic brain impairment (CBI). There are two kinds, one which may heal after the drug(s) is/are withdrawn, and the other that will never go away. He explains that

>... if a patient was prescribed an antipsychotic for a year as a 20-year-old and then again for a year as a 40-year-old, there is a risk that this constitutes a 2-year exposure. ... the clinician should be cautious and assume that the earlier damage will be cumulatively increased by renewed exposure to the drug.<

This concurs with what I have heard at AA meetings, that when a person resumes drinking even after many years of sobriety, he is immediately back to where he left off. In other words, the damage is never completely undone, but nonetheless the quality of life is greatly improved after safe withdrawal, which can take years. Also, Breggin warns, "some patients have worse adverse reactions and withdrawal reactions to a drug the second time around" so someone who successfully quit before must not assume that s/he will be able to repeat that success as easily.

Whereas Your Drug May Be Your Problem was addressed mainly to the person taking the drugs, this book is addressed mainly to the people helping that person.

Doing it on one's own is not safe, Breggin explains, because of medication spellbinding, a term he introduces instead of his older term, anosognosia. This means that people on these drugs are not aware of what is obvious to everyone around them (except the people putting and keeping them on the drugs), namely how adversely affected their personalities and bodies are. Of the five adults whose case histories Breggin relates in the final chapters, two were alerted to their CBI by their wives, two by their general practitioners, and one by a "clinical social worker" for whom it was "an act of courage and honesty ... to put her patient's interests first in the face of possible censure from the authorities at her clinic." None of the five sought withdrawal at his/her own initiative. The effects of withdrawing the drug(s) are likewise a closed book to the person doing the withdrawing. For instance, the person might become dangerously angry without connecting this rage to drug withdrawal.

The framework which Breggin advises is a collaborative team consisting of:

* The person taking the drug(s), of course;
* A "prescriber" who can be anyone with prescription privileges;
* A "therapist" by which he apparently means a psychotherapist;
* A "support system" consisting of family or friend willing and able to assist with monitoring the affects of drug withdrawal.

Breggin's message is a message of hope. He states "The era of patience [sic] compliance has passed; the era of patient choice has begun." Surely this is wishful thinking, especially in the field of psychiatry. Unfortunately, for the people contacting MeTZelf his message remains one of hopelessness.

Even in Breggin's country, the United States, one is unlikely to find a prescriber willing to cooperate with drug withdrawal. In our country, the Netherlands, it is out of the question. Psychiatrists are bound to the directives of their profession. Medical protocol prohibits general practitioners and other physicians from interfering in a specialist's treatment plan. We don't have nurse practitioners with prescription privileges (yet), and if we did, they would be bound to the same protocol. Any prescriber who violates these principles risks losing his license to practice and thus his livelihood. Indeed, in 2012 our Minister of Health used public funds to prosecute a general practitioner who had questioned the utility of flu shots. My own family doctor has told me on different occasions that he simply cannot take the risk of violating medical protocols even when this would be best for his patient.

Likewise, in our country one is unlikely to find a therapist willing and able to help a prescriber monitor withdrawal and assist the person and family through the rough times, which is done mainly by knowing what to say. Even if such a therapist existed and could be found, there would probably be no way to pay him/her. Someone on psychiatric drugs has CBI and is usually unemployed, let alone earns enough to pay a therapist. Our government mandated health insurance covers only being on psychiatric drugs, not withdrawing from them, no matter how beneficial to the person to be withdrawn and profitable for the general economy.

Furthermore, a person on psychiatric drugs would be lucky to have family who cares about him/her and has the time, ability, and wish to assist in withdrawal. Psychiatrized people often find that their families are their worst enemies. Breggin expresses it this way:

>Withdrawal may be prohibitively hazardous if the patient is isolated and has no social support network. It is also extremely difficult if not impossible to withdraw a patient who remains dependent on parents or caregivers who will not fully and enthusiastically cooperate with ... the withdrawal process.<

and elsewhere

>When the family of a dependent and heavily medicated patient is unwilling or unable to engage in this kind of family therapy, there is little or no possibility of successfully reducing or stopping medication, especially on an outpatient basis.<

It sure as anything isn't going to happen on an inpatient basis. Intramural psychiatric drug withdrawal in this country is unthinkable.

Breggin repeats throughout the book that for the program to work, the person withdrawing must be personally responsible. He doesn't say anywhere what he means by that, but he does at one point state, "Even otherwise competent professionals or business-persons may give up personal responsibility when they enter the healthcare professional's office." So apparently to him somebody personally responsible is competent. Yet he also refers to people with cognitive disabilities or old-age dementia benefiting from drug withdrawal. Such people are by definition not competent.

Then there are the people who are court ordered, competent or not:

>Under ... complicated circumstances, what is needed is family intervention involving a variety of wraparound services ... [which] is not available for helping long-term patients come off their medications. On the contrary, the community is more likely to force the long-term patient to take drugs through involuntary outpatient commitment. In this newly developing field of psychiatric drug reduction and withdrawal, there are severe situations for which there are at present few, if any, adequate solutions.<

In other words, the people who need it most might as well forget it.

If the world were populated by professionals like Breggin it could be done, but the tragedy is, it isn't. He describes his own talent as follows:

>I began with a great gift in my initial efforts to help some of the most despairing and overwhelmed people on earth [at a state mental hospital]. The gift was . . . that I had no mental health training.< (his dots)

As a footnote about Peter Breggin, I refer the reader to my review of his 1992 publication Toxic Psychiatry in which I wrote: "The absolute nadir ... is Breggin's contention that autism is caused by parents treating their children like furniture. ... I ... don't know whether he has since publicly rectified his position on autism." He hasn't. In this book he writes

>I suspect that the apathy induced by these drugs in some of the mothers after the delivery of their children may have impaired their bonding with their children and contributed to causing autism.<

Apparently Breggin thinks that humans bond like goose chicks.

Nonetheless he deserves enormous admiration and gratitude for exposing psychiatry for the false, harmful, and cruel doctrine that it is.

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