A Project of the Empathic Therapy Center is an online library and newspaper project of the 501c3 nonprofit Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy, Education & Living, founded by Peter R. Breggin, MD and Ginger Breggin, working toward replacing the biological theories, diagnoses and treatments of "modern" psychiatry with better therapeutic and educational approaches

Peter R. Breggin, MD Websites

Ethics Issues: Psychiatry, Research, Science


"Philanthropist’s death sparks lawsuit against UCLA psychiatrist who was treating her" Associated Press, The Washington Post, August 4, 2012

LOS ANGELES — When former model and philanthropist Phyllis Harvey died last year at the age of 59, little note was taken. Brief paid obituaries appeared in Los Angeles and her hometown paper in North Carolina.

There was no mention of how she died. Nothing was said about her struggle with alcoholism and mental illness. And there was no reference to one of the final projects she helped fund with nearly a half million dollars.
Those details now figure prominently in a medical board complaint and wrongful death lawsuit claiming her psychiatrist coaxed $490,000 in research funding from her while she was under powerful doses of psychotropic drugs that eventually killed her.

The suit filed on behalf of Brian Harvey by attorney Daniel M. Hodes accuses University of California, Los Angeles psychiatrist Dr. Alexander Bystritsky of causing Phyllis Harvey’s death with a dangerous combination of drugs that altered her heart rhythm.

Hodes says that Mrs. Harvey was hospitalized several times for heart abnormalities associated with drugs, and that emergency room doctors discontinued her medications only to have Bystritsky resume giving them to her when she was discharged. Read more here.


"Unfavorable Drug Studies Don't Get Published" by  John M. Grohol, PsyD Founder & Editor-in-Chief   Psychiatric drug effectiveness inflated by not publishing unfavorable studies


"2 UC Davis neurosurgeons accused of experimental surgery are banned from human research," By Marjie Lundstrom, The Sacramento Bee, Jul. 22, 2012, Page 1A

A prominent UC Davis neurosurgeon was banned from performing medical research on humans after he and an underling were accused of experimenting on dying brain cancer patients without university permission, The Bee has learned.

Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar, who earns more than $800,000 a year as chairman of the department of neurological surgery, was ordered last fall to "immediately cease and desist" from any research involving human subjects, according to documents obtained by The Bee.

Also banned was the colleague, Dr. Rudolph J. Schrot, an assistant professor and neurosurgeon who has worked under Muizelaar the past 13 years.

The university has admitted to the federal government that the surgeons' actions amounted to "serious and continuing noncompliance" with federal regulations. Read more here.


"A long shadow: Nazi doctors, moral vulnerability and contemporary medical culture" by Alessandra Colaianni, Journal of Medical Ethics, 2012
ABSTRACT: More than 7% of all German physicians became members of the Nazi SS during World War II, compared with less than 1% of the general population. In so doing, these doctors willingly participated in genocide, something that should have been antithetical to the values of their chosen profession. The participation of physicians in torture and murder both before and after World War II is a disturbing legacy seldom discussed in medical school, and underrecognised in contemporary medicine. Is there something inherent in being a physician that promotes a transition from healer to murderer? With this historical background in mind, the author, a medical student, defines and reflects upon moral vulnerabilities still endemic to contemporary medical culture.


"Court strikes decision for mentally ill woman’s abortion--Backs rights of those ruled incompetent" by Peter Schworm, Globe Staff January 17, 2012

Earlier this month, a Norfolk probate judge declared a pregnant woman with schizophrenia incompetent and ordered her to undergo an abortion, stating she could be “coaxed, bribed, or even enticed’’ into the hospital for the procedure.

Unbidden, the judge further directed that the 32-year-old woman be sterilized “to avoid this painful situation from recurring in the future.’’

Yesterday, the state’s appeals court struck down the decision in unusually harsh terms, saying the woman had clearly expressed her opposition to abortion as a Catholic.
“The personal decision whether to bear or beget a child is a right so fundamental that it must be extended to all persons, including those who are incompetent,’’ the opinion stated, citing a 1982 ruling by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.
In sharp words, yesterday’s decision also denounced the sterilization order, a directive that several legal specialists said they had not heard of in recent memory.
“No party requested this measure, none of the attendant procedural requirements has been met, and the judge appears to have simply produced the requirement out of thin air,’’ wrote Appeals Court Judge Andrew Grainger.  Read more here.


"A New Twist in the Sad Saga of Little Albert"

January 25, 2012, by Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"In the famous Little Albert experiment, a nearly 9-month-old baby is shown a white rat. The rat crawls up to the baby, on him, and around him. The baby seems interested in the rat and unafraid. Later, researchers again produce the rat and place it next to the baby, but this time the rat’s presence is accompanied by a loud, startling clang — a sound the baby clearly doesn’t like. This is repeated multiple times until the baby starts to cry at the mere appearance of the rat, loud clang or no. The fear extends to other furry things like a dog and a monkey, animals that previously provoked only mild interest. The researchers have taught Little Albert to be afraid...."

This 1920 experiment known as 'the Little Albert experiment' was "conducted to demonstrate that infants are blank slates and therefore infinitely malleable."  But evidence has now emerged that Little Albert was ill from birth with hydrocephalus. He was the child of a wet nurse working at Johns Hopkins, who may have been unable to refuse to allow her son to be used experimentally.  The experiment was not ethically sound on a number of levels at the time and has now been further debunked by the investigation reported here that reveals the child to be neurologically and perhaps sight impaired at the time of the experiment.


"Little Albert: A neurologically impaired child" by Fridlund, Alan J.;Beck, Hall P.;Goldie, William D.;Irons, Gary

History of Psychology, Jan 23 , 2012.  Abstract: "Evidence collected by Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009) indicates that Albert B., the “lost” infant subject of John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner's (1920) famous conditioning study, was Douglas Merritte (1919–1925). Following the finding that Merritte died early with hydrocephalus, questions arose as to whether Douglas's condition was congenital, rather than acquired in 1922, as cited on his death certificate. This etiology would imply that “Little Albert” was not the “healthy” and “normal” infant described by Watson and numerous secondary sources. Detailed analyses of Watson's (1923) film footage of Albert suggested substantial behavioral and neurological deficits. The anomalies we observed on film of Albert B. are insufficiently explained by his hospital upbringing but are consistent with findings from newly discovered medical records of Douglas Merritte. These documents revealed that the infant suffered from congenital obstructive hydrocephalus, iatrogenic streptococcal meningitis/ventriculitis, and retinal and optic nerve atrophy. The medical history also indicates that Albert's sessions with Watson occurred during periods when Douglas's clinical course was relatively stable. Further inquiries found ample sources of information available to Watson that would have made him aware of Douglas/Albert's medical condition at the times he tested the baby. Experimental ethics, Watson's legacy, and the Albert study are discussed in light of these new findings."


"Fabrication, Falsification of Medical Research Data" By: Gary Schwitzer January 25, 2012, Medpage blog

The BMJ reports:

“More than one in ten (13%) UK-based scientists or doctors have witnessed colleagues intentionally altering or fabricating data during their research or for the purposes of publication, while 6% say they are aware of possible research misconduct at their institution that has not been properly investigated, reveals a BMJ survey published today which attracted over 2,700 responses.

…Dr Fiona Godlee, BMJ Editor in Chief, said: “While our survey can’t provide a true estimate of how much research misconduct there is in the UK, it does show that there is a substantial number of cases and that UK institutions are failing to investigate adequately, if at all. The BMJ has been told of junior academics being advised to keep concerns to themselves to protect their careers, being bullied into not publishing their findings, or having their contracts terminated when they spoke out.”


"Researchers feel pressure to cite superfluous papers" First survey to quantify problem finds that junior faculty are more likely to be targeted. by Richard Van Noorden, Nature, 02 February 2012

One in five academics in a variety of social science and business fields say they have been asked to pad their papers with superfluous references in order to get published. The figures, from a survey published today in Science1, also suggest that journal editors strategically target junior faculty, who in turn were more willing to acquiesce.

The controversial practice is not new: those studying publication ethics have for many years noted that some editors encourage extra references in order to boost a journal's impact factor (a measure of the average number of citations an article in the journal receives over two years). But the survey is the first to try to quantify what it calls 'coercive citation...'