In “The Avoidable Death of Rebecca Riley,” Ronson discusses the problems associated with the DSM and how people find comfort in assigning a label to their quirky characteristics. He focuses on Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist who becomes an editor for the DSM-III. Spitzer changed the way the DSM worked; he made it so that it only included diseases that had a specific checklist for diagnosis. At first, this was a good plan; it would eliminate any human judgment or bias from diagnosing patients. But eventually it became dangerous, because diseases were classified by specific characteristics, people with those traits assumed they were mentally ill, regardless of any medical opinion. Soon rowdy children were being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and being treated with drugs that could kill them. This is where the name from the chapter comes from. A girl from Boston, Rebecca Riley, couldn’t sleep one night, and so her parents gave her a dose of her bipolar medication that killed her in her sleep, because it had not been approved for use in children.
I can honestly say, I do not know what my opinion is of this book. Some parts I loved, some I didn’t understand, and some I just didn’t understand the point of. I’m very torn as to what my opinion is. I feel as though it had great potential, a real look into the world of psychopathy and the twisted treatments that people go through. But Ronson’s level of anxiety and awkwardness made me question his sanity at times. Overall, I will say it was a very intriguing and good read, but I almost feel as though I can’t trust what he says. Maybe I’m just impressed that he actually interviewed all these people and experienced these shocking things, and just because I find it hard to believe I automatically assume he’s making it all up. The ending was also a bit disappointing. I wish he had continued to work on the book, so that we knew what the next message said and what the point of “Being of Nothingness” was. But maybe that was his point, for there to “be a little mystery left.”