Book Review

P.C., M.D.
How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine

Sally Satel
285 pages (2000)


Many people outside the health professions are unaware of the extent to which racially-divisive and overtly feminist activism, masquerading as liberal philosophy, is spreading from the liberal arts side of the university into public health, psychiatry, and medicine, or of the harmful effects this activism has on health care.

In P.C., M.D., Dr Sally Satel, a psychiatrist from Washington, D.C., courageously reports and debunks the faulty reasoning behind New Age therapy and politically-correct health care policies. She also describes some of the poorly-controlled studies used by the political correctness movement to promote their social policies. For example, in the Schulman study, which purported to show racial bias in physician's referrals, and which was widely reported by the news media, the study's authors inaccurately reported that black patients were 40% less likely to be referred for cardiac catheterization than other ethnic groups. In fact, the difference was only 7%, and much of this could be explained by factors other than physician bias. Satel uses her wide knowledge of medicine to demolish the claims of these and other "indoctrinologists" who misinterpret or misreport study results to fit their politically-motivated perceptions of racial or gender bias. She presents the cold, hard facts that debunk many of the myths promulgated by the political correctness movement.

In fact, there are many more myths, lunacies, and excesses from the P.C. movement with medical implications than could be mentioned in this book. She doesn't discuss, for example, the silicone breast implant scandal, in which lawyers, with the support of feminists, nearly destroyed Dow Corning in the 1990s with lawsuits claiming, in the complete absence of convincing scientific evidence, that silicone was causing health problems. She also barely touches on the widespread anti-white-male hysteria sweeping the liberal arts and social studies departments of our Universities. The main concern of P.C., M.D. is the adverse impact that this hysteria is beginning have on the quality of our health care.

Satel makes strong arguments that the increasing prevalence of victim therapy, multicultural counseling, and therapeutic touch therapy are undermining the public health system by promoting ineffectual, unscientific forms of therapy. She concludes that widespread incompetence, in some cases bordering on malpractice, is entering the health professions by way of political-correctness activists.

I partially disagree, however, with her views on the mental health system. Clinical psychology still classifies patients largely on the basis of their behavior, an act which is inherently political. Many children, for example, are still forced to take ritalin or other mood-altering drugs, not because of any scientifically valid diagnosis, but solely to eliminate behavior viewed as disruptive by teachers or parents. It can easily be argued that there is little difference between this philosophy and the practice in the former Soviet Union of involuntarily imprisoning dissidents in insane asylums.

In fact, one could argue that the very concept of 'behavior disorders' is political. For example, Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint has advocated classifying 'racial bigotry' as a psychiatric disease. If a disease can so easily be defined for obviously political reasons, this supports the contention of those (including some scientists) who view psychiatry as a social construct with little scientific basis. Indeed, without some objective measure of brain disease, any diagnosis based on purely behavioral observations and interviews will inevitably be determined or at least heavily contaminated by the psychiatrist's subjective values.

The issues raised in this book should be of great concern to patients as well as physicians. Radical feminists and other P.C. activists are already in positions of power at governmental health institutes, university admissions boards, and elsewhere.