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Psychiatric Slavery (1977)

Psychiatric Slavery is a commentary on the Donaldson court case. Donaldson tried to fight his involuntary commitment through the courts. The case reached the Supreme Court. The main problem around which this case turns is the linkage between commitment and treatment. This linkage was already discussed in the section above, particularly in relation to criminal behavior. The question of whether people who are involuntarily hospitalized have a right to treatment raises other questions. Is it justified to involuntarily commit people for the purpose of making such treatment possible? Can this treatment be so essential as to justify involuntary commitment even though the patient is not dangerous? And, if the explicit purpose of involuntary commitment is treatment, should the person be released when no treatment is possible or when the person refuses treatment?

Szasz comments on the case and answers these questions from his point of view that involuntary hospitalization in itself is an unjustifiable social, moral, and political evil. He considers the question of the victims’ right to treatment illogical and misleading, because it disguises and protects the phenomenon of involuntary commitment.

The title of the book is a reference to Szasz’s analogy between slavery and institutional psychiatry, an analogy that he formulated already in The Manufacture of Madness.
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