Daniel Dorman, MD


"...here your will is upright, free, and whole,
and you would be in error not to heed
whatever your own impulse prompts you to:
lord of yourself I crown and mitre you."
-Dante, The Purgatorio

"Dante's Cure" by Daniel Dorman, MD

Read a true story of courage and hope by Daniel Dorman, MD. "Dante's Cure" demonstrates that treatment is possible without antipsychotic drugs.

An Overview

Catherine, 19 years old and suffering from severe schizophrenia, sat in a mental hospital -- mute, catatonic, and hearing voices. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Dorman, was convinced that his patient's psychotic behavior was rooted not merely in chemical imbalances but rather in the dramatic circumstances of her family history. He was, therefore, determined to avoid the mind-numbing medications that had been so detrimental to Catherine's wellbeing. Dorman fought adamant opposition and criticism from his peers and superiors for a chance to guide Catherine out of madness.

"Dante's Cure" is the true account of a therapeutic process that took place six days a week for seven years. It is also the story of a young doctor finding his own path in a controversial new world of antipsychotic drugs, where patients' advocates have nowhere to turn. Thanks to Dorman's devotion, persistence, and self-understanding of his role as a therapist aware of his own limitations, Catherine was able to set out on a life of her own. She is now a psychiatric nurse in southern California, living free of medication. She speaks out on behalf of patient rights and humanity in the medical profession.

In "Dante's Cure," Dorman presents Catherine's early life and the onset of her illness in striking detail. The book covers her treatment prior to his meeting her as a resident at UCLA Hospital through to her recovery and work as a nurse and activist. The book reveals how madness is inherent to the human condition and therefore ought to be treated as such. Medical professionals must restore patients' trust in their power to recover rather than robbing them of their agency in the name of medical knowledge. This is the true moral of this remarkable journey out of madness.

About Catherine Penney

Catherine Penney, RN, born February 8, 1950, was reared in Tustin, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. Signs of schizophrenia first appeared when she was 17 years of age and led to nearly three years of hospitalization. Ms. Penney fully recovered and went on to obtain a certificate as a licensed psychiatric technician. She then finished the requirements for licensure as a registered nurse.

Ms. Penney worked in direct patient care on the wards of a number of psychiatric hospitals, finally leaving in 1993 to work for the County of Riverside, California as Registered Nurse Case Manager for the older adult population. Ms. Penney has now retired from that job. She went on to serve the Regional Access Commission, an organization that grants funding for unmet mental health needs in the Palm Springs area from 1998-2001. She also speaks about mental health issues to various groups at the behest of the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission. Ms. Penney was a member of the CARE Team, a quasi-public agency, whose purpose is to investigate cases of elder abuse.

Ms. Penney's interests include interpretive and flamenco dancing. She performs interpretive dance at local venues and festivals. She has performed as a flamenco dancer at a number of Palm Springs area resorts, the Palm Canyon Theatre, and recently as a member of the chorus in a local production of Carmen. Ms. Penney lives in a Southwest-style home near Palm Springs. She has often appeared with Dorman to promote "Dante's Cure."

A Lesson for the United States

Catherine's case stands for the immense possibility of freeing those trapped by psychosis. In the United States, only 5 percent of people suffering from schizophrenia recover. In Finland, where a humanistic approach has been adopted, the recovery rate from first-episode psychosis is 70 percent. Individual attention is expensive, but the expense is more than offset by eliminating chronic care costs. Catherine, for instance, would have needed long-term support. Additionally, she has contributed to society with her work as a psychiatric nurse and as a taxpaying citizen.