Professor Thomas Szasz on Psychiatry as a Human Rights Abuse

  • “Psychiatry does not commit human rights abuse. It is a human rights abuse.” – Thomas Szasz
  • “It’s not science. It’s politics and economics. That’s what psychiatry is: politics and economics. Behavior control, it is not science, it is not medicine.”
  • “It’s an epidemic of psychiatry that we are dealing with. We don’t have an epidemic of mental illness, we have an epidemic of psychiatry.”
  • “When will we recognize and publicly identify the medical criminals among us? Or is it the very possibility of perceiving many of our leading psychiatrists and psychiatric institutions in this way precluded by the fact that they represent the officially ‘correct’ views and practices. Is it precluded because they have the ears of our lawyers and legislators, journalists and judges? Or is it precluded because they are control the vast funds, collected by the state through taxing the citizens, which finance an enterprise whose basic moral legitimacy we should call into question?”
  • “Psychiatry is probably the single most destructive force that has affected the society within the last sixty years.”
  • “The task we set ourselves — to combat psychiatric coercion — is important. It is a noble task in the pursuit of which we must, regardless of obstacles, persevere. Our conscience commands that we do no less.”
  • “…all psychiatry is coercive, actually or potentially — because once a person walks into a psychiatrist’s office, under certain conditions, that psychiatrist has the legal right and the legal duty to commit that person. The psychiatrist has the duty to prevent suicide and murder. The priest hearing confession has no such duty. The lawyer and the judge have no such duties. No other person in society has the kind of power the psychiatrist has. And that is the power of which psychiatrists must be deprived, just as white men had to be deprived of the power to enslave black men.”
  • “They are becoming more and more quacks, where they talk and act and impersonate doctors. They talk about diagnosis and treatments and the brain and all this kind of stuff, about which they know nothing. Zero. So they have become more and more quacks, like they were 200 years ago, when they threw people into snake pits and what not, when they didn’t know what to do. Again, they don’t know what they do.”
  • “Although powerful institutional forces lend their massive weight to the tradition of keeping psychiatric problems within the conceptual framework of medicine, the moral and scientific challenge is clear: we must recast and redefine the problem of ‘mental illness’ so that it may be encompassed in a morally explicit science of man…. Human behavior is fundamentally moral behavior. Attempts to describe and alter such behavior without, at the same time, coming to grips with the issue of ethical values are therefore doomed to failure. Hence, so long as the moral dimensions of psychiatric theories and therapies remain hidden and inexplicit, their scientific worth will be seriously limited.”
  • “The best, indeed the only, hope for remedying the problem of ‘mental illness’ lies in weakening—not in strengthening—the power of Institutional Psychiatry.”
  • “Institutional psychiatry’s most important social characteristic is the use of force and fraud.”

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Back to Main: CCHR Co-founder Dr. Thomas Szasz Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus