20
Jun
2005

You'd have to be crazy

06/17/05

According to a new government-sponsored survey, most Americans qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis at some point in their lives. Trying to explain how so many of us became mentally ill, The New York Times offered a history lesson that reminded me of an old Saturday Night Live sketch. In the sketch Steve Martin plays Theodoric of York, a medieval barber with a patient whose condition has not improved despite a bloodletting, a sheep's-urine-and-staghorn poultice, and a night buried in the marsh up to her neck. 'Medicine is not an exact science,' Theodoric tells the girl's mother, 'but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter's was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach'...

//www.reason.com/sullum/061705.shtml

from Reason, by Jacob Sullum


Informant: Thomas L. Knapp
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