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Psychiatry and Coercion

In Chapter VI a number of elements related to stigmatization were mentioned as well as rendering people in the role of psychiatric patient powerless, whether they accepted that role voluntarily or had it imposed upon them. This chapter is about coercion and psychiatry, about laws that can cause people to be compelled to things they do not want, and that formally revoke civil rights on the basis of psychiatric justification.

Szasz takes a fundamental and deontological stand: as freedom and autonomy are values that are to be regarded more highly than health, intervening in someone’s life against his wishes or deciding about the person without consulting him on grounds of a medical-psychiatric argument, is never admissible or justifiable. In this chapter I intend to discuss this position at a theoretical as well as practical level and to examine the problems that arise more closely.

In this discussion I will limit myself to what for Szasz is the epitome of coercion in psychiatry, the involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital (3).

First, however, I will discuss some considerations of principle regarding the concept of psychiatric disorders and their relation to competency as these are consequential for the relationship between psychiatric disorders and legal measures (2).
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