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Books, Journals, New Media
November 3, 2004


Author Affiliations

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.

JAMA. 2004;292(17):2153-2159. doi:10.1001/jama.292.17.2157

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.