Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Experts Oughta Be Committed

   I am currently making my way through an audio book entitled "Ten Days in a Madhouse" by Nelly Bly, which was published in book form in 1887. In it, the journalist author  feigns madness in order to  have herself committed to a mental institution so that she may investigate the goings-on from the inside.  This took no small measure of bravery as she entered with no clear plan as to how to get herself released.  She writes of her plan to "once within the walls of the asylum to find out and describe its inside workings, which are always, so effectually hidden by white-capped nurses, as well as by bolts and bars, from the knowledge of the public."
  What follows is a sad account of her experiences under the care of 'experts'.  Starvation and  abuse were  common tools of the trade, with a healthy dose of humiliation. The focus was to force the patient to conform to someone else's idea of what  'cured' looked like.  The doctors and nurses enjoyed almost complete power over someone in their care because after all they were the experts.   Men who had gone to school for years and had learned the very best their witch-doctory had to offer claimed that  seclusion from family, and  electro-shock therapy were 'extremely helpful and effective'.  They defended these practices, citing  studies and cases where  peopel had been 'cured' ,at least according to them. The final determiner as to whether or not you were allowed to  resume being a human being was a panel of people that were guessing as to whether or not there was anything wrong with you.  Not much has changed.
  To the modern eye (and  indeed even to Nelly) the practices seem cruel, and barbaric with a diagnosis  procedure  based  almost entirely on guesswork.  Nelly Bly, who was  hardly a professional actress, managed to fool several police officers, a judge and  several doctors, and convince them that she was out of her head.  The reason this was so simple is that , then, as now, there is no scientific medical test you can perform to establish sanity or prove it's lack thereof. There is no blood test to establish if you have any syndrome or affliction. All she had to do was  act  a bit distracted, a bit distant, obsess over something more than  some doctor thought was appropriate and she was deemed insane. Then, as now, people with initials and degrees after their names sit  as judge, jury and executioner as to your mental stability, with little appeal available.

  Just as in Bly's day, for the sham of the mental health industry to be able to carry on, its inner workings must be hidden from the public.  In Bly's day, as in now, the barbarities are still cloaked by professional sounding jargon and  men in white coats with degrees who rule from on high,  doling out their edicts and judgements  upon the great unwashed masses virtually unchallenged. The courts look to these 'professionals' and defer to their  wisdom when deciding whether or not your  child should be medicated, or even removed from you. Lately there has been  much discussion about whether or not 'crazy people' should be allowed  to defend themselves like  real human beings.  Guess whose expert opinions are being  used?  The mental health mafia use cryptic language designed to intimidate the  layman, with acronyms like ADHD or OCD used to describe people who don't conform to their idea of normal.  They can't prove you have it, so you can't prove you don't have it, and after all they are 'scientists'.
  True scientists perform repeatable observable experiments that aren't based on a vague, constantly changing baseline of behavior. If I were to walk up, and  decide without running a single test that you had cancer, you would feel free to dismiss me. But if  regular medical science worked the way  psychiatry does, I could then go  get a court order and force you to undergo chemotherapy no matter how loud you protested that you don't have cancer. What do you know, you uncircumcised Philistine? I , after all, am an expert. See, I have a white lab coat and everything.
  The modern crop of experts of course look back at the barbarities of the  past,  take a moment to assume a  solemn look,  cluck cluck with  their tongue and  grudgingly acknowledge that in less enlightened times, mistakes were made, but after all, we're doing much better.  'Mistakes' are a fig leaf to  hide  scarred minds, broken bones, and destroyed lives. They continue on with their guesswork,  only now they are destroying lives with  dangerous medications.  Do you feel too much? Then we will dope you to the gills so that you  don't feel  anything, and  you 'll feel just like we do  with our seared consciences.  After all, we decide what's normal.
  I was surprised to find that, although starvation and deprivation appear to be out of vogue in  psychiatric circles these days, some of the old tried and true treatments are still employed, but  more carefully now.  Electroshock therapy was  developed in 1938 by an Italian  expert named Ugo Cerletti. The way the story goes, Cerletti observed pigs being zapped which made it easier for the butcher to slit their throats.  How scientific.  The movie 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' highlighted this therapy, and the damage it causes, and it fell out of favor from a public relations point of view, but it still goes on. For example, from the highly respected  Mayo clinic comes this  blurb regarding electroshock therapy
"Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a procedure in which electric currents are passed through the brain, intentionally triggering a brief seizure. ECT seems to cause changes in brain chemistry that can quickly reverse symptoms of certain mental illnesses. It often works when other treatments are unsuccessful.
Much of the stigma attached to ECT is based on early treatments in which high doses of electricity were administered without anesthesia, leading to memory loss, fractured bones and other serious side effects.
ECT is much safer today ...."
  Well I certainly feel better. It's safer now.  I suppose that means less memory loss, less fractured bones although no numbers are given as to how much less.

  On a personal note, I have watched 'experts' diagnose my sister with one syndrome and then a  different passel of experts diagnose her with a different syndrome. I have watched her medication be changed and  adjusted  several times a year with each  doctor having a different opinion as to what's wrong with her, and what she needs.  Every time  the expectation is that  'this will fix it'.  That sounds a lot less like science and a lot more like snake oil.  Only snake oil salesmen never had the courts on their side.
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