Medicine Politics

Patch Adams has lost his mind

Light blogging today, I’m afraid. My high speed Internet access was on the fritz last night, leaving odds and ends. Truly annoying. (On the other hand, maybe it’s the FSM’s way of telling me to slow down a bit.)

Patch Adams, the famous doctor who advocates humor in medicine and has been known to dress up in a clown outfit, as shown in the movie starring Robin Williams, displayed a distinctly non-amusing side of his personality in a speech at Vanderbilt University last month:

Patch Adams, M.D., an unconventional doctor who became a household name through a 1998 movie starring Robin Williams, unloaded on government and medicine while advocating love and compassion as medical treatments to Vanderbilt School of Medicine students attending a two-hour lecture Oct. 25 in Light Hall.

Sporting partially blue hair with a non-matching tie and accompanying outfit, the founder of the Gesundheit! Institute called President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney “mass murderers,” predicted VUSM’s doctors-in-training will live to see the extinction of the human race and advised the physicians-in-training to withhold prescribing psychotropic medications for mental illness patients.

“Our government is worse than Hitler because they are making decisions that can make us extinct,” Adams said.

“We need to find a way to not put murderous people in charge … they are heinous, they are mass murderers. They even told us to call it Shock and Awe.”

I was half tempted to sic the Hitler Zombie on him for that one, but didn’t bother; it was too uncreative and common (i.e., booooring!) an invocation of Hitler to catch the Undead Führer’s attention. And, if that was all he said, I wouldn’t have mentioned it anyway. It’s just politics, and people say ridiculous things about politics all the time. This what Adams said that was truly disturbing:

Adams caught the attention of Scott Rodgers, M.D., assistant dean of Students, when he labeled depression as a “selfish act” and spoke against the use of psychotropic medications as treatment.

“To me depression is a symptom of a disease called loneliness,” Adams said. “You cannot be depressed and hold someone you love in your mind at the same time — it is impossible.”

Rodgers, a psychiatrist who has seen many patients with mental illness, labeled the speaker’s advice as ‘malpractice.’

“I was shocked and dismayed to hear a famous and influential physician speak in this way about mental illness,” Rodgers said.

Indeed. It’s just plain ignorant to say such things. Depression is a disease. You can have the most loving, committed family in the world and still suffer from depression. To say otherwise and urge medical students not to use antidepressants to treat depression is not just ignorant, it’s advocating malpractice. If future physicians were to heed such advice, it could result in more patient deaths from suicide.

For shame, “Patch.”

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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