Addendum: I’ve now seen this film and it annoyed me so much that I’ve written another post about it
Tonight there’s what may be quite an interesting programme on television – Channel 4 2200. I can’t watch it as I don’t have a TV, but here’s the blurb:
‘The Doctor Who Hears Voices tells the true story of Ruth, a junior doctor, who has begun to hear a male voice telling her to kill herself. Suspended from her job, she turns to clinical psychologist Rufus May who is known for his unconventional approach to treating people with severe mental health problems.
Although she admitted feeling depressed and suicidal to her employers, Ruth knows they would have sacked her immediately if she had told them about the voice.’
‘Rufus May is a maverick psychologist. He believes there is no such thing as schizophrenia, that medication can destroy lives and that there’s nothing wrong with hearing voices. Rufus is an authority on the subject. He was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia aged 18.’
I hadn’t heard of Rufus May until this evening; I’ve now looked at his website so I’m getting clued up. He’s a little bit more circumspect than the Channel 4 would have him:
‘I am not against people using psychiatric medication I just would like people to be able to make informed choices and have the chance if they so wish to try out other approaches to their mental health problems.’
Which sounds a little more balanced, but also less exciting.
It’s rather a poor show to criticize a TV programme I haven’t seen, although this never stops politicians. I’ve got quite a lot of sympathy for people who say that schizophrenia doesn’t exist. In a way it sort of doesn’t, in that our understanding of its aetiology is patchy and it could easily be a number of similar diseases based on different genetic defects. If he is helping people to deal with their psychosis with means other than medication, this is also to be applauded.
As usual though what’s necessary for the highest level of evidence for May’s methods is a controlled trial and I can’t see him having been involved in one of those. If he chooses the patients he treats, he can thus pick the ones he would expect to have a better outcome – those that have a higher intelligence and better social support. There are a lot of patients out there with psychosis and May has treated but a few of them. Twenty % of schizophrenia patients make a full recovery without any psychiatric intervention.
As a final thought, if the doctor in question had a serious psychosis then you could also argue that he would have had a duty of care to reporting her to the GMC.
Like I say, I’d better watch it. Here’s Rufus May’s Bradford page
PS. There’s an interesting transcript on the Rufus May website of a debate entitled ‘Psychiatric drugs do more harm than good’ For: Dr Peter Breggin, seconded by Dr Joanna Moncrieff. Against: Dr Mark Salter, seconded by Dr Trevor Turner