I’m not sure where psychiatrists rank in terms of public esteem. Probably higher than lawyers but below automobile mechanics. I have known quite a few psychiatrists, some worthy of unqualified admiration and respect, others not so good. In that sense they are like the rest of us, and they sometimes make mistakes.
Psychiatrists often testify in court as experts, and in a Colorado case several years ago a psychiatrist began as an expert witness and wound up as the target of a lawsuit. I had nothing to do with the case, which was later the subject of a full report on the television program “Frontline” on Channel 2. I did not see the program.
Over the years, I have examined many psychiatrists on the witness stand, and one day a woman psychiatrist called to ask if I would speak to an association of women psychiatrists in Boston. The topic? “How to Prepare a Psychiatrist to Testify at Trial.” I said I would be glad to do so.
I gave the talk to about 35 women psychiatrists (and two or three of their male colleagues), in the living room of the doctor who had invited me, and I then asked if anyone had any questions. Up went a hand: “Tell us about the ____ case.” (I leave the name blank because I don’t remember it.) I didn’t want to be rude, but I had never heard of the case, so I smiled and turned to someone else. That gave me short reprieve, but the undaunted questioner, this time without raising her hand, said, Please tell us about the ____ case. This time I was trapped, so I confessed. “I’ve never heard of the ____ case.”
At this point the host, the doctor who had invited me, stood up and said, “Oh my God, I invited the wrong Steinfield.” The right one, it seems, was the lawyer in the Colorado case.”