Friday, May 18, 2012

Spitzer Apologizes

Psychiatry seems endlessly political. Having read Ronald Bayer's excellent chronicle of the story of homosexuality being read out of psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual I was puzzled when I read the New York Times headline " Leading Psychiatrist apologizes for Study Supporting Gay 'Cure'." I was completely unfamiliar with the story it relates of Robert Spitzer's sponsoring and publishing a study on treating homosexuality in 2001.  The author of the article, Benedict Cary, suggests that it was Spitzer's anti-establishment impulses manifesting themselves again that led him to conduct the study. I found myself wondering if the study didn't express some  reservations that Spitzer still had about his advocacy for the de-medicalization of homosexuality. At the end of the article Spitzer, clearly thinking about his legacy in the history of psychiatry says of his apology: " You know, it's the only regret I have; the only professional one, … And I  think, in the history of psychiatry, I don't know that I've ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers."  He might have added that it would be hard to find a psychiatrist turning 180 degrees from one politically controversial position to another -- not to mention in the wrong direction.

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