"The Neurosis That Has Possessed Us": Political Repression in the Cold War Medical Profession
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 73, Number 3, July 2018
- pp. 255-273
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Political repression played a central role in shaping the political complexion of the American medical profession, the policies it advocated, and those allowed to function comfortably in it. Previous work on the impact of McCarthyism and medicine focuses heavily on the mid-century failure of national health insurance (NHI) and medical reform organizations that suffered from McCarthyist attacks. The focus is national and birds-eye but says less about the impact on the day-to-day life of physicians caught in a McCarthyist web; and how exactly the machinery of political repression within the medical profession worked on the ground. This study shifts orientation by using the abrupt dismissal of three Los Angeles physicians from their jobs as a starting point for exploring these dynamics. I argue that the rise of the medical profession and the repressive state at mid-century, frequently studied apart, worked hand-in-hand, with institutions from each playing symbiotic and mutually reinforcing roles. I also explore tactics of resistance – rhetorical and organizational – to medical repression by physicians who came under attack.