Saturday, August 23, 2014

Psychiatric coercion

I've been re-reading one of Thomas Szasz's last papers (see previous post) in which he is quite scathing about the Critical Psychiatry Network (CPN). He says "The CPN's position is not psychiatric criticism, it is a plea for prettifying the psychiatric plantations." The choice of the word 'plantation' is deliberate, as what he wants to do is unshackle "the psychiatric slave from his psychiatric master". He suggests Dorothea Dix soothed American families and communities "with the fiction that her proposed psychiatric plantations would make the slaves healthy and happy".

Such rhetoric may increase the force of his argument that the "psychiatric critic's primary duty is, and always has been, to reject the legal-political legitimacy of the use of psychiatric force and fraud". However, I'm not trying to abolish psychiatry, which Szasz makes clear was his aim. I'm not justifying torture as treatment and can distinguish coercion from torture. Torture does involve coercion but not all coercion involves the infliction of pain. Torture is a type of coercion and ethical practice in psychiatry avoids it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Such rhetoric may increase the force of his argument that the "psychiatric critic's primary duty is, and always has been, to reject the legal-political legitimacy of the use of psychiatric force and fraud". However, I'm not trying to abolish psychiatry, which Szasz makes clear was his aim."

Wrong! Szasz sought to abolish coercive psychiatry, not psychiatry in general.



"I'm not justifying torture as treatment and can distinguish coercion from torture. Torture does involve coercion but not all coercion involves the infliction of pain. Torture is a type of coercion and ethical practice in psychiatry avoids it."

If you carry out and support the existence of government power to forcibly drug people or forcibly electroshock people you're supporting torture. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has spoken out against these practices. They are regularly described as torture by the people whose opinion matters most, the people who have been subjected to these forms of violence.

Duncan Double said...

I agree that Szasz was not trying to abolish psychiatry in general, in the sense that he thought individual therapeutic intervention is legitimate. That's what I meant, as I think psychiatry does imply practice within the framework of the Mental Health Act, but sorry for not being clearer. I also agree torture under the Mental Health Act is illegitimate.