By Anne Rasmussen
Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis
“Patients are tired of seeking help from human beings who pretend to be robots.”
In An Unprintable Book, Anne Rasmussen, who was trained as an anthropologist, relates her experiences as a patient in Norway’s hospitals. Rasmussen entered a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s, followed by being hospitalized for cancer in 1990, and was twice hospitalized for endometriosis in 1991, and 1992.
Rather than being a memoir of her experiences, Rasmussen states that she is “describing events, rarely experience. My experience was far more bloody; a book built on experience would have been unreadable.”
Essentially, An Unprintable Book is Rasmussen’s complaint, her protest, her criticism about the health care she endured while hospitalized. For example, Rasmussen’s stint in a mental hospital occurred because she became angry with her grant advisor, who arrived almost an hour late for their appointment, and had not bothered to read her draft for her proposed project. Rasmussen’s friends insisted she see her psychiatrist, who prescribed medicine that made her suicidal. Nevertheless, the psychiatrist wanted her to keep taking the medicine. Rasmussen rejected the idea. As a result, Rasmussen was sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Rasmussen’s subsequent hospitalizations were repeats of the same old movie – bureaucratic horror flicks, where the nurses and doctors were little more than automatons adhering rigidly to “routine.” Of course, the routines were nonsensical and failed to acknowledge that the patients were human. Entering a hospital was like entering a gulag in Siberia.
Rasmussen is a talented writer. Intelligent and educated as an anthropologist, she provides unique perspectives on her tribulations. She attempts to humanize the dehumanizing aspects of rules and regulations, official procedure, and officialdom.
An Unprintable Book is a searing indictment of the modern health care system, which denies any acquaintance with the concept of love and human kindness.