Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Editor's Choice

What are your burning issues for 2018?

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 04 January 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k9

Rapid Response:

Seeing better in 2018 ... removing the cataracts of Willful Blindness

The responses to the 'burning issues for 2018' question (so far) make for an interesting collection, respectively raising the topics of 'social determinants'/income; ethics; and opthalmology/cataracts.
Please may I suggest something which includes all of these.

I have recently come across the work of Margaret Heffernan about 'Willful Blindness' and why 'we ignore the obvious at our peril' (1)

I have been truly horrified and deeply alarmed to discover, over recent years, the extent of the issues around the harm being suffered as a consequence of massive over-prescribing, especially of antidepressants. Of course antidepressant prescribing levels are particularly high in areas of poverty and social deprivation. Antidepressants are neuro-toxic, especially over the longer term, and one of the effects of this can be damage to nerves affecting visual processing . I and others have been trying to raise these issues for years and have come up again and again against silence and brick walls. Despite rising evidence of terrible harms being suffered by countless people - this is actively not recognised by the medical profession. Instead it is suggested that all these people are suffering 'medically unexplained symptoms' (2). This has led to extensive searching and exploring to understand what is going on.

It seems that the medical profession, being highly trained only in 'medicine', is completely unable to 'see' the problem.

Being a psychotherapist, and seeing glaring evidence of the problem every day and everywhere I look, I feel a strong ethical compulsion to do something about the cataracts of 'Willful Blindness' and have been writing about what I am seeing (3).

We currently have a Public Petition under consideration at the Scottish Parliament (4) and a similar Public Petition is under consideration at the Welsh Assembly (5). Both of these are due for next Public Petitions Committee consideration shortly (January 2018)


Competing interests: No competing interests

09 January 2018
Marion BROWN
Psychotherapist and Mediator (Independent)
Helensburgh, Scotland