Carl Elliott

Carl Elliott is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics and the author of Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream.

Recent Articles

Logical Extreme

Press Release ABC Entertainment If you liked Extreme Makeover , you'll love Extreme Psychiatry , the hot new "reality" show premiering Thursday night at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (7 Central and Mountain). Join our contestants as they begin their voyage of self-transformation with the aid of psychotherapy, involuntary confinement and heavy psychoactive medication. Here's a look at some of our contestants: Ken is a 37-year-old hair stylist from St. Louis. What's his problem? Ken is gay, but he has always wanted to be straight. On Thursday evening, Ken's life dream comes true. After six weeks of Christian counseling and mild electric shocks to his genitals, Ken celebrates his new identity at a raucous bachelor party with beer and strippers. "Lighten up!" This is the cruel taunt 33-year-old Melissa heard for years. Unable to laugh at off-color jokes and uncomfortable in suggestive clothing, this Minnesota Lutheran has finally decided to lighten up with a prefrontal lobotomy. Watch...

American Bioscience Meets the American Dream

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." When Jacques Barzun made this famous diagnosis of American life in 1954, Wallace Laboratories was preparing to introduce the nation to a new drug called Miltown. Marketed as a "tranquilizer," Miltown was the first prescription drug developed specifically for the anxiety of ordinary life. Within two years of its introduction, Miltown had become the most popular prescription drug in America. It would remain popular into the 1960s, when it gradually ceded its place as America's favorite to Valium, another tranquilizer. By the early 1990s, another psychopharmacology boom had begun: American consumers, mostly children, were ingesting 90 percent of the world's supply of Ritalin. Today, the pharmaceutical industry has settled comfortably into its place as the most profitable business in America, and its most profitable class of drugs is antidepressants. Barzun's heart was in the right place but his mind was on...

The Parenting Trap

Raising America: Experts, Parents and a Century of Advice About Children By Ann Hulbert, Alfred A. Knopf, 384 pages, $27.50 We live in an age of experts. Our newspapers and magazines are filled with advice columns, our best-seller lists with diet manuals and self-help books. We rely on experts to manage our births, plan our vacations, pay our taxes and conduct our burials. Most of all, we depend on experts to manage ourselves. We willingly submit to the advice of clinical psychologists, guidance counselors, social workers, career counselors, probation officers, sex therapists, marriage counselors, personal trainers, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, ethicists and life coaches. All this would not be quite so puzzling if we did not inhabit a country whose chief source of pride is its independence and self-reliance and whose founding myths are all about liberty and rebellion. We may resist the iron fist of authority, but we thrill to the velvet touch of the expert. Nowhere is this more...