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May 23, 1986

The Breaking of Bodies and Minds: Torture, Psychiatric Abuse, and the Health Professions

Author Affiliations

Elizabeth (NJ) General Medical Center


edited by Eric Stover and Elena O. Nightingale, 319 pp, 26 illus, $21.95, paper $11.95, New York, WH Freeman & Co, 1985.

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2817. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200119042

We are inclined to regard torture and deliberate psychiatric abuse as matters that fall in the other fellow's backyard and of little concern to the practicing physician. The extent, however, of torture practices throughout the world as well as the known atrocities by German physicians during the Holocaust have produced ripples that engulf us all.

This volume, resulting from the efforts of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is an impressive collection of detailed and welldocumented facts on the subject of torture and psychiatric abuse, which demonstrates that its impact goes far beyond the immediate victims. The volume assiduously avoids hyperbole and ideological excursions while naming names and unhesitatingly placing blame at the doorsteps of the perpetrators. The editors point out the important distinction between systematic and sporadic abuse of authority in torture and psychiatric abuse. While arbitrary and sporadic