Psychiatry: huge, uncontrolled, unjustified power

The practitioners of psychiatry have

  1. huge
  2. uncontrolled
  3. unjustified

power over ordinary people.

Huge Power

A psychiatric diagnosis removes the patient from the human realm. All of sudden an erstwhile person loses all her human and civil rights. No longer can she speak for herself, live where she wants, decide anything about her life.

This is bigger than the police power: an arrested individual preserves certain rights.

Uncontrolled Power

Yes, there are people who are genuinely mad and must be institutionalized and treated, just like there are criminals who must be incarcerated. However, just like the criminals are afforded a due process which is intended to ensure that the innocents stay free, there must be a due process which ensures that the sane stay out of mental institutions.

The current system, however, permits psychiatrists to administer antipsychotic drugs based on their "clinical opinion", thus turning a person into a vegetable in a few short weeks.

Unjustified Power

Psychiatric diagnosis is based on "clinical opinion": observation and conversation. No psychiatric diagnostic laboratory tests exist. There is plenty of evidence that in many cases psychiatrists are unable to discriminate between the sane and mad people.

Note that nobody even suggests that the police should be given the power to decide guilt and innocence on the spot.

Malice vs. Stupidity

I do not claim that all the psychiatrists are malicious any more that civil right activists claim that all police officers are. However, just like the police power is subject to a judicial oversight, we need to oversee the psychiatrists.

Proposal

As long as there are no laboratory tests for mental illness, both commitment to a psychiatric institution and administering of antipsychotic drugs should be conditional on a court approval, up to a full jury trial; with a mandatory "defense doctor" arguing against institutionalization and drugging. When the patient and his family are agree to the diagnosis, the case, of course, would be handled in a "plea bargain" way.

Note that requiring a second opinion is not necessarily a good solution because of the general diagnostic biases exemplified by the Rosenhan experiment.

Relevant links