Polonium-210 and psychiatric case histories

BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind has just kicked off a new series with features on the psychological effects of Alexander Litvenenko’s Polonium-210 poisoning and whether there is still value in detailed individual case studies in psychiatry.

Litvenenko’s poisoning made headline news and was a significant public health risk owing to the powerful radioactive poison.

Considering this, and the 2005 terrorist bombings in London, the programme looks at the psychological impact of these scares on the public, and what this tells us about how we react to large-scale risk.

Detailed case studies have been critically important in the history of psychiatry, with Freud making particular use of individual cases on which to base psychoanalytic theory.

They have recently fallen out of fashion, however, with some researchers and clinicians thinking they are no better than anecdotal evidence.

Others have argued that they provide a different sort of evidence to group studies that rely on quantification, and they are complementary to the wider quest to understand and treat mental disorder.

Link to BBC All in the Mind webpage with realaudio archive.

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