Witness, on BBC World Service, last month broadcast about the Rosenhan experiment (listen to podcast). Rosenhan died earlier this year (see Stanford Law School news). There's also an earlier, longer radio programme by Claudia Hammond in the Mind Changers series.
I do think Rosenhan's 1973 paper in Science, On being sane in insane places, is still relevant. It very much contributed to the crisis in psychiatric diagnosis that led to DSM-III trying to tighten up the definition of the different syndromes by operationalising them. We're still struggling trying to revise DSM on this basis (see previous blog entry).
We need a different reaction to Rosenhan. Psychiatry need not have been so defensive about his experiment. Of course psychiatric diagnosis is arbitrary to some extent. Trying to put a patient's psychiatric presentation into a single word isn't going to be sufficient, nor is it always going to be very helpful. I'm not against trying to classify psychiatric disorders, but the limitations need to be recognised. They're idealised descriptions which do not describe entities as such. The extent to which psychiatric diagnosis is subjective is not a sign of scientific deficiency but of its meaningful nature.