Is Psychiatry Partisan?


From The Atlantic: This June, the Supreme Court will make an important decision regarding the role of mental health experts in death penalty cases. The decision raises questions about the partisan, subjective nature of psychiatry.

“In recent decades, psychiatry has been pulled between two conceptual poles. One is a more empirical, medical model of disease based on objective sets of diagnostic criteria, labels, and standardized treatment approaches. The other is a more individualistic approach in which every case is unique, and the practice is entirely reliant on diagnostic insights and expert opinions that can only come from one-on-one interviews.

The latter approach has posed problems of legitimacy for the field throughout the years. In studies of people who are seen by more than one psychiatrist, the consistency of the diagnosis varies. One may consider you depressed and suggest a serotonin-modulating pill, while another may say no such thing. This degree of variation is less common in other medical specialties, as is the basic fact that few objective standards exist by which any given psychiatrist’s diagnosis can be proven right or wrong.”

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