[Hpn] Anti-Psychiatry: Dr. Thomas SZASZ honored by Citizens Commission on Human Rights FWD Human Rights FWD

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 16 May 2000 13:42:18 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000424/ca_cchr_ho_1.html
     Monday April 24, 2000 4:31 pm Eastern Time

     Citizens Commission on Human Rights


LOS ANGELES, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- ``Psychiatry is probably the single
most destructive force that has affected American society within the last
fifty years,'' stated Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the
University of New York and Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric
Association (APA). Dr. Szasz would know; with his 80th birthday this month,
he celebrates more than half a century of front-line psychiatric
experience, observation and debate. In other words, he has seen it all. And
with more than 24 books to his credit, including the 1961 classic, ``The
Myth of Mental Illness,'' the Hungarian-born doctor has written about most
of it as well.

According to Jan Eastgate, International President of the Citizens
Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) -- co-founded by Dr. Szasz in 1969 --
``His books have repeatedly jolted the international psychiatric community,
and are some of the most potent weapons against psychiatry's
power-mongering. An outspoken critic of his profession, Szasz has
unflinchingly lambasted his fellow psychiatrists for their abuse of power,
unconstitutional, involuntary commitment laws and their use of the insanity

One of the first to reveal how psychiatry has slowly removed the
cornerstones of our culture, specifically ``individual responsibility,
virtue, standards of achievement,'' Szasz wrote, ``Psychiatry is part of
the general liberal ethos...everybody is a victim, everybody has special
rights, no responsibilities. This psychiatric view has so completely
infiltrated American thinking, people don't even think of it as

Consider that these comments were made in an era when psychiatry had
achieved virtually unrestricted monopoly in the mental health field. Its
word was authority on all matters of mental health, without the faintest
shred of evidence that it could have any lasting, positive effect on a
person's mental condition; psychiatrists were busy absorbing millions in
government appropriations for essentially dealing out abuse; public
accountability and external review were non existent; anyone could be
arbitrarily incarcerated without due process of law; any treatment could be
given to patients without their consent.

As Szasz noted, ``My urgings that psychiatrists confront the legitimacy of
their power have forced them to chew on a bone that got stuck in their
throat. They can neither swallow it, that is, acknowledge that they are the
only medical specialists whose practice rests on coercion; nor can they
spit it out, that is, repudiate the use of psychiatric coercions.''

According to Szasz, such coercions rely heavily on two key psychiatric
``perversion(s) of power'' -- civil commitment and the insanity defense. As
Szasz elaborated, ``Since civil commitment results in the loss of liberty,
and subjects the victim to health hazards at the hands of medical criminals
whose ostensible healing function is legitimized by the state, it entails a
far greater deprivation of rights than does incarceration in prison, a
penalty carefully circumscribed by constitutional guarantees and judicial

In 1969, CCHR and Szasz collaborated in testing the constitutionality of
Pennsylvania's involuntary commitment law. The case involved Victor Gyory,
a Hungarian refugee who was committed to a Philadelphia mental institution,
stripped naked, held in isolation against his will, and forced to undergo
electroshock. Psychiatrists diagnosed him as ``schizophrenic with paranoid
tendencies.'' However, as Szasz determined, Gyory had been committed for
one simple reason -- his inability to speak English. What the psychiatrists
had labeled as confusion and ``incoherence'' was actually Gyory's native
language. In court, the director of the hospital opted to discharge Gyory
rather than defend the state's commitment laws.

Since then, numerous mental health laws have been reformed internationally
through Szasz's acute insight and incisive logic, coupled with the
ground-breaking work of CCHR. The results have included the introduction of
informed consent to treatment and legal safeguards against arbitrary

One specific focus of Szasz's razor-sharp analysis was the move from
involuntary hospitalization to involuntary (enforced) treatment in the
community. Drugs and de-institutionalization sounded grand, he would claim,
but it was simply ``the transfer of funding for psychiatric services from
the states to the federal government, and the shift in legal-psychiatric
fashions from long-term hospitalization to long-term drugging.''

It has been a profitable program for psychiatry. The cost of running
Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) and psychiatric outpatient clinics
increased more than 6,800% -- from $140 million in 1969 to $9.75 billion in
1994. Psychiatric fraud rose along with it. In 1998, Medicare barred 80
CMHCs from serving the elderly and disabled. Investigators found patients
had been charged $600 to $700 a day for watching television and playing

Today, Szasz continues to target the community mental health debate,
declaring that psychiatrists have conjoined ``homelessness and mental
illness, as if they went together like love and marriage in sentimental
lyrics...'' But, ``psychiatrists have, and always had, a vested interest in
classifying social deviants as mentally ill. In the past, they defined the
masturbator, the homosexual, and the epileptic as mentally ill and hence
their fiduciary property. Now it is the homeless person's turn.''

The current propaganda being touted by psychiatrists is that homeless
individuals have ``serious brain diseases'' which require their expertise.
Szasz comments: ``If all mental illnesses are brain diseases, then every
department and school of psychiatry should be abolished because there is
already a medical specialty to handle this -- neurology!''

In summary, Eastgate stated, ``For over 50 years, Dr. Szasz has fought
relentlessly and courageously against the existence and destructive
consequences of compulsory psychiatry as a means of social control. It is a
fight he continues today. He is to be celebrated, because it has been no
less than a fight for the restoration and preservation of the dignity,
responsibility and decency of Man.''

CCHR was established by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose
psychiatric abuse.

SOURCE: Citizens Commission on Human Rights

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