Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Costly diversions

Yesterday's blog cited Jonathan Kellerman's interesting analysis of deinstitutionalization. Kellerman had some unkind things to say about Dr. Thomas Szasz. Now Dan Klein points me to Szasz's take on psychiatry and the VT shooter.

Szasz writes that "dangerousness is not a disease. ... To be sure, dangerousness is a problem, but it is not a medical problem. It is a human problem -- a moral, legal, economic, social, and political problem -- a problem for everyone in the dangerous person's social ambit."

I get a little antsy when "counseling", "help", "therapy" are discussed in the popular discourse in almost the same tones as going to Midas for a muffler. The VT shooting may have been avoidable and, in hindsight, it is pleasant to think that a timely "intervention" could have saved lives. But all we have are stories that are used as convenient simplifications. As in any field, misdiagnoses are costly diversions.