RAJ PERSAUD, Britain’s most high-profile psychiatrist, is facing demands to withdraw his bestselling book from sale after senior academics said that long passages appear to have been copied from their work.
Substantial portions of the 524-page book, From the Edge of the Couch, seem to have been taken from the publications of leading psychologists and psychiatrists, sometimes with barely a word changed.
In recent months Persaud, 42, has been dogged by allegations of plagiarism over his journalistic output. Last week an inquiry by King’s College, London, where he held an honorary position, found “some substance” to these claims which have led to his suspension as presenter of All in the Mind, the BBC Radio 4 series.
Problems with the book, subtitled “bizarre psychiatric cases and what they teach us about ourselves”, appear to be more extensive than those in other Persaud writings about which complaints have been made.
“What they ought to do is recall this book,” said Professor Richard Bentall, head of experimental clinical psychology at Manchester University, who plans to ask the British Psychological Society, the profession’s regulator, to investigate. “They should take all copies from the bookshops and issue an apology forthwith.”
Bentall was surprised to discover that almost 60 lines of Persaud’s introduction were only slightly modified from a paper that Bentall had co-authored in 2001. “We wrote those two pages,” said Bentall. “He didn’t write them.”
In another example, writing about people who think that they are werewolves, Persaud warns: “Not infrequently, bizarre and chaotic sexuality is expressed in a primitive way through lycanthropic symptoms. Patients whose internal fears exceed their coping capabilities may externalise them via projection and constitute a serious threat to others.”
Yet a 1977 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry reports: “Not infrequently, bizarre and chaotic sexuality is expressed in a primitive way through lycanthropic symptoms. Patients whose internal fears exceed their coping capabilities may externalise them via projection and constitute a serious threat to others.”
Persaud lists 180 academics in his book’s acknowledgments. Bentall and others say that he e-mailed them asking permission to refer to their patient cases, but did not say that he planned to copy their writing.
Persaud did not respond to phone calls or e-mails, but Bantam Press, the book’s publisher, said: “We understand that Dr Persaud's book was fully researched and that third-party contributors were aware of and consented to the publication of their material, which was in turn fully acknowledged in the book.”