Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor:
Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA;
David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library,
Journal Review Editor.
In “Are You There Alone?”journalist
Suzanne O’Malley tells the story of an exemplary pediatric oncology
nurse, athlete, valedictorian, and supermom who spiraled down into mental
illness with the birth of each child. The tragedy is that of the Yates family:
Andrea, Rusty, and their children Noah, 7 years; John, 5 years; Paul, 3 years;
Luke, 2 years; and Mary, 6 months.
As O’Malley describes, Andrea Yates was a young mother whose vulnerable
brain could not withstand the abrupt neurohormonal shifts of childbearing.
She became progressively psychotic with each birth and worse still when her
psychiatrist discontinued her antipsychotic medication. Yates’ story
could be a textbook case of postpartum psychosis or the theme of a morbidity
and mortality conference. The fact that it ended in child murder brings it
into the public domain. Using more than 100 interviews, hospital records,
and police reports O’Malley provides a complete and factual description
of complicated legal, medical, and ethical topics.
Spinelli MG. Infanticide. JAMA. 2004;292(17):2153-2159. doi:10.1001/jama.292.17.2157