Commentary: Stigma, conscience, and science in psychiatry: Past, present, and future

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12 Scopus citations


In his response to Reynolds and colleagues' "The Future of Psychiatry as Clinical Neuroscience," the author considers three themes prominent in the history of psychiatry: stigma, conscience, and science, considering each in the past, present, and into the future. A series of conclusions follow these historical perspectives. One, unraveling the web of stigma in the future depends more on moral, educational, and political achievements than neuroscientific ones. Two, psychiatry's future depends upon the public trust, which has fluctuated over its history and into the present era, during which legacies of undue influence and failed regulation have damaged this trust. While explaining the mechanisms for mental disorders is crucial, the returns from these scientific investments are decades away, and failures of conscience today undermine the vital public trust and impede psychiatry's abilities to immediately address the plight of the mentally ill. Three, the researcher-entrepreneur in perennial search of funding has replaced the old model of the curious researcher-practitioner. This drive for funding promotes hubris and failures of conscience in psychiatric science. Moreover, the information explosion and superspecialization of contemporary academic medicine has led to an intellectual fragmentation analogous to the service fragmentation at the beginnings of psychiatry. Attention to integrative synthesis of research information, as well as conscientious moral reflection on scientific advances, will promote humility over hubris: enhancing the public trust, assuring public confidence in psychiatric science, and empowering patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-417
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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