He Sent Fake Patients To Mental Hospitals And All But One Were Misdiagnosed

During the late '60s and early '70s, psychologist and Stanford University professor David Rosenhan wanted to test the reliability and validity of psychiatric diagnoses.

Along with seven of his associates he referred to as "pseudopatients," Rosenhan began calling multiple psychiatric hospitals to make appointments under fake names as part of what would later be known as the Rosenhan experiment. None of these people -- including a psychology graduate student, three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, and a housewife -- had any history of mental illness, but they pretended to be experiencing auditory hallucinations.
In the first part of the study, they were all admitted to 12 different hospitals across the U.S., and nearly all of them were diagnosed with schizophrenia "in remission" before they were released. What's more alarming is how they were treated during their stays.

In their initial psychiatric assessments, Rosenhan and the others said they were hearing voices that seemed be saying the words "empty", "dull", and "thud." After they were admitted, they acted like their normal selves and told staff that they weren't experiencing any more hallucinations.

But despite their sane behavior, seven of them were diagnosed with schizophrenia and one was diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis even though they all claimed to have the same symptoms. Their average stay was 19 days, with some staying up to 52 days.

In the first three hospitalizations, 35 of the total 118 patients believed that the pseudopatients were undercover reporters or researchers, but none of the hospital staff were suspicious -- in fact, all of the group's behavior was interpreted as signs of mental illness. One nurse even labeled a pseudopatient's note-taking as pathological "writing behavior."

None of them were allowed to be released from the various facilities unless they admitted that they were mentally ill and agreed to take antipsychotic medications. They flushed them down toilets, which the staff never noticed.

The worst part of the whole experiment was that the psuedopatients not only reported that the staff dehumanized the patients, but some verbally and physically abused them as well. They were often talked about as if they weren't there and were ignored for the most part. Their interaction with doctors averaged about 6.8 minutes per day.

In the second part of the study, Rosenhan got in contact with a hospital where staff had heard about the initial study but claimed that they would never make the same errors. He arranged with them that one or more pseudopatients would try to be admitted during a three-month period. The staff had the task of figuring out who the imposter was.

Out of 193 patients, 41 were considered to be fakes and 42 more were believed to be suspicious, but Rosenhan had tricked the hospital. He hadn't sent any pseudopatients there -- the suspected individuals were actual patients.

Rosenhan published the study in the journal "Science" in 1973, titling it "On being sane in insane places." It sparked a huge controversy about psychiatric diagnoses and the way mental patients were treated, and proved to be very influential in the movement to reform mental institutions.
I can't even imagine how it must feel to be dealing with a mental illness while being treated so poorly at the same time. Be sure to SHARE this story to remind others that those who need psychiatric care are people, too!
He Sent Fake Patients To Mental Hospitals And All But One Were Misdiagnosed He Sent Fake Patients To Mental Hospitals And All But One Were Misdiagnosed Reviewed by ricardo on 4:33 a. m. Rating: 5

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