On April 26, 2015, Jeffrey Lieberman, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, stirred up controversy by calling investigative journalist Robert Whitaker a “menace to society” on CBC radio because Whitaker, in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic, had challenged the long-term effectiveness of psychiatric medication.
But is it Whitaker or Lieberman who has been a menace to society?
Lieberman, the APA president through May 2014, is currently making the media rounds with his new book Shrinks. But earlier in his career, Lieberman conducted experiments in which patients diagnosed with schizophrenia were given a psychostimulant drug with Lieberman’s expectation that this drug would be “psychotogenic” (induce symptoms of psychosis), and this deterioration in fact occurred.
Robert Whitaker, as an investigative journalist, won the George Polk award for medical reporting and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his 1998 Boston Globe series “Doing Harm: Research on the Mentally Ill” (co-authored with Dolores Kong). In this series, Whitaker uncovered how Lieberman and other psychiatrists, exploring the biology of psychosis, conducted experiments on more than 2,000 patients in which certain drugs were administered and other drugs withheld in the expectation of worsening symptoms.
The Nuremberg Code of research ethics, established after the horrific human experiments by doctors in Nazi Germany, states that medical experiments on human subjects “should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.” This is obvious ethics, as one would hope that only Nazi doctors would see nothing wrong with using human subjects to test whether hypothesized harmful agents are in fact harmful.