Helping the Helpers Not to Harm: Iatrogenic Damage and Community Mental Health

By Ruth B Caplan and Gerald Caplan.
Taylor and Francis Books
ISBN 1 58391 095 6

Professionals not only help: they also harm. Surgical removable
of the wrong leg is an extreme example, but iatrogenic damage
(damage caused by examination or treatment) can be found in all
caring professions.

These issues make professionals feel uncomfortable as our
motives and abilities are questioned. And often, it takes official
inquiries by outsiders for these matters to be aired. This is what
makes this book all the more welcome, as it is by experienced care
professionals, father and daughter.

Their cases of professional ineptitude are presented in a calm
and rational manner. The authors say that a professional may be a
liability in one case but an asset in others. “The model that comes
in mind is how we manage typhoid carriers” – infection is not
necessarily their fault, but the risks needs managing.

Most of their material is quoted from child care in Israel.
However, their analysis of the subject transcends the specifics of
the setting, and serves to show that such problems apply across all

This is an important and disturbing book.

Rick Cresswell is an approved social worker, Heathside
Community Mental Health Team, Maidstone.

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