Nurse Ratched’s Revenge

Stanford professor who changed America with just one study was also a liar. Why are there so many mentally damaged, disabled, retarded, or simply incapacitated on the streets?

His research work was also groundbreaking. In 1973, Rosenhan published the paper “On Being Sane in Insane Places” in the prestigious journal Science, and it was a sensation. The study, in which eight healthy volunteers went undercover as “pseudopatients” in 12 psychiatric hospitals across the country, discovered harrowing conditions that led to national outrage. His findings helped expedite the widespread closure of psychiatric institutions across the country, changing mental-health care in the US forever.

Based on lies.

Meanwhile, I looked for the seven other pseudopatients and spent the next months of my life chasing ghosts. I hunted down rumors, pursuing one dead end after the next. I even hired a private detective, who got no further than I had.

After years of searching, I found only one pseudopatient who participated in the study and whose experience matched that of Rosenhan: Bill Underwood, who’d been a Stanford graduate student at the time.

The only other participant I discovered, Harry Lando, had a vastly different take. Lando had summed up his 19-day hospitalization at the US Public Health Service Hospital in San Francisco in one word: “positive.”

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