Between medical paternalism and servility

Even today there are patients who leave diagnosis and treatment entirely to their doctors. They make no effort to inform themselves about their illness or chart their own course; they do whatever their doctors advise. Once the norm, this passive, willfully naive attitude has withered in the face of a multigenerational attitude shift, coupled with […]

OpenNotes: Good intentions gone awry

OpenNotes is “a national initiative working to give patients access to the visit notes written by their doctors, nurses, or other clinicians.” According to their website, three million patients now have such access, generally online. Participating institutions include the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, Penn State Hershey Medical Group, […]

Military brain-chips to cure psychiatric disorders?

Sounding like something straight out of science fiction, DARPA recently announced grants to fund research and development of implantable brain-stimulation chips aimed to relieve, or even cure, mental disorders. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency thinks big, and it has the money, i.e., our tax dollars, to back it up. Decades ago, DARPA brought us […]

Loss of privacy and the new psychic numbing

I grew up in the era of the nuclear arms standoff. Thousands of warheads on land, at sea, and in planes stood ready to obliterate most of the human race if the Soviets, Americans, or a rogue third nation launched a nuclear “first strike.” Authors of that era wrote of the psychological effects of living […]

Online commentary: marketplace of ideas or shouting match?

A central disruptive technology of our online world is the breaking down of unidirectional communication. In years past, newspapers and other media published articles without immediate feedback from readers. True, a few readers might telephone the editor’s desk, and the paper might print a select handful of “letters to the editor” in the next issue. […]

Review of _Century of the Self_ (BBC documentary)

Edward Bernays (1891-1995)

It may have been a patient (I can’t recall) who suggested I search online for the 2002 BBC documentary by Adam Curtis called Century of the Self. It turns out the video is freely available at several sites; the full four-hour documentary can be viewed or downloaded here, or each of […]

The APA annual meeting: a photo essay

As posted previously, last month I attended the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) annual conference. Straying from my usual format, I thought I’d post pictures from the meeting and, of course, offer comments. The meeting took place in Moscone Center, a conference center complex located just south of Market Street in downtown San Francisco. Depicted here […]