Book Review

P.C., M.D. --- How Political Correctness is
Corrupting Medicine

Sally Satel, MD

(256 pp., $27.00, ISBN: 0-465-0718201, Basic Books, New York, NY, 2000.)


Sally Zierler, a professor from Brown University calls AIDS, "a biological expression of social inequality," and her plan for combating the AIDS epidemic includes limiting the power of corporations, capping CEO salaries, eliminating corporate subsidies, prohibiting corporate contributions to politicians, and strengthening labor unions. A University of California San Francisco physician claims that " 'illness is caused by the power imbalance' inherent in capitalist society." The American Nursing Association, which recognizes "energy field disturbance" as a diagnosis, advises nurses to: "Take a closer look at one of the 'energetic' therapies. It might just recharge your practice." These are only a few of the many astonishing and disturbing references found in the well-researched and documented P.C., M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine by Sally Satel, M.D.

Dr. Satel's thesis is that overtly political, leftist-based ideology, focused on victimization, power discrepancy, and income inequality has spilled over from the rest of the university into the medical center. Perhaps we had thought the medical center immune from such radical ideas, protected because of medicine's foundation upon actual, verifiable outcomes and the cold, hard facts of biology. Yet, the book amply demonstrates the degree to which unsupportable, ideologically-driven theories influence the public health establishment, the mental health and substance abuse systems, nursing, and prevalent beliefs about gender and race in medicine. Worse, political correctness is not a benign Ivory Tower anomaly; it damages all of our medical system and causes very real harm to patients.

The book quotes public health professors from Berkeley and Portland State University in stating that "the practice of public health is, to a large degree, the process of redesigning society." P.C., M.D. describes how much of the medical system at least has been redesigned. Public health is now more concerned with social inequality than the epidemiology and prevention of communicable diseases. The nursing profession promotes alternative therapies in order to oppose the patriarchal and hierarchical medical system, while nursing schools lower academic standards in order to include courses on sociology, politics, and race and gender awareness. Objectively unsupported claims of sexism and racism lead to the waste of research money on fruitless, politically motivated topics, add to research costs with unnecessary rules on gender, and contribute to shortages of physicians in areas of need. Dr. Satel, a psychiatrist, also describes how the political recognition of the mentally ill as a group victimized by psychiatry in the form of the consumer movement has often prevented the most severely mentally ill from receiving treatment that they desperately need.

Discredited leftist ideology repackaged in the form of the PC movement is increasingly damaging the medical system - much more than many busy physicians busy with patient care realize. However, it is high time that they become cognizant of this trend before it becomes even more pervasive.

PC medicine is dangerous because it assigns victim status to patients and relegates them to chronic dependency on society and others. Indeed, if I had my way, this excellent book would become standard reading within the medical community.

Reviewed by Mark Schiller, MD, MS
San Francisco, CA

Dr. Schiller is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco and a member of the Board of Directors of the AAPS. His e-mail is

Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2001;6(2):72. Copyright©2001 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).