What a psychiatrist learned from 87000 brain scans
Questions have been raised about the ethics of selling SPECT scans on the basis of unproven claims: neuroscience professor Martha Farah calls such use "profitable but unproven" and says "Tens of thousands of individuals, many of them children, have been exposed to the radiation of two SPECT scans and paid thousands of dollars out of pocket (because insurers will not pay) against the advice of many experts". Professor of psychology Irving Kirsch has said of Amen's theory: "Before you start promulgating this and marketing it and profiting from it, you should ethically be bound to demonstrate it scientifically in a peer-reviewed, respected journal" as otherwise "you're just going down the path of being a snake oil salesman". In a 2011 paper the neuroscientist Anjan Chatterjee discussed example cases that were found on the Amen Clinic's website including a couple with marital difficulties and a child with impulsive aggression. The paper noted that the examples "violate the standard of care" because a normal clinical diagnosis would have been sufficient and that there "was no reason to obtain functional neuroimaging for diagnostic purposes in these cases." Most patients do not realise that the SPECT scans rely on unproven claims.
An initial session at one of Amen's clinics costs about $3,500. As reported by the Washington Post in 2012, officials at major psychiatric and neuroscience associations and research centers see Amen's claims for the use of SPECT as "no more than myth and poppycock, buffaloing an unsuspecting public."…
In 2012, The Washington Post Magazine ran a cover story titled "Daniel Amen is the most popular psychiatrist in America. To most researchers and scientists, that's a very bad thing." The Washington Post detailed Amen's lack of acceptance among the scientific community and his monetary conflict of interest. Journalist Sanjiv Bhattacharya wrote that Amen's critics likened him "to a self-help guru rather than a scientist, on account of all the books, DVDs and nutritional supplements which he hawks so shamelessly on infomercials" and that Amen was "the most controversial psychiatrist in America [who] may also be the most commercially successful." Amen stated he felt the accolades went hand-in-hand and that "One reason why they hate me is because I make money. [...] our biggest referral sources are our patients. If I'm defrauding them how would I stay in business for decades?"
In 2008, Tufts professor and author Daniel Carlat published an article on Amen's use of SPECT imaging. After visiting Amen's clinics, Carlat called Amen's interpretations of the scans "spectacularly meaningless."
Amen is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has also been an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine.
Amen is the author of more than 30 books with combined sales of about one million copies. Five of his books have been New York Times bestsellers. In 2015, Amen's The Daniel Plan received the Christian Book of the Year Award.