Punishing the Patient

How Psychiatrists Misunderstand and Mistreat Schizophrenia

by Richard Gosden, PhD

Scribe Publications, Melbourne, 2001

‘A persuasive critique of psychiatric practice and a compelling defence of human rights’

—Dr Peter Breggin, author of Your Drug May Be Your Problem

Otherwise read it online using the contents below

Schizophrenia is the medical name for the most baffling form of mental disorder that afflicts human beings. The condition causes immense distress to its many sufferers and those close to them, and imposes an enormous economic burden on society as a whole.

Beyond this point, schizophrenia is shrouded in mystery. There are no laboratory tests available to confirm a diagnosis, and psychiatrists have many divergent and contradictory theories about its cause. Yet the profession is certain that schizophrenia is a medical problem, and is virtually unanimous about the correct treatment for it. Most people diagnosed are treated, often involuntarily, with powerful, debilitating drugs that manage but do not cure the condition. And now there is a growing worldwide attempt to identify ‘pre-psychotic’ adolescents, and to treat them similarly.

But what if psychiatrists are mistaken in their belief that schizophrenia is a medical problem? In a radical shift of perspective, Punishing the Patient argues that people with schizophrenic symptoms should be thought of as belonging to two broad, non-medical classes: those who are undergoing a spiritual/mystical emergency, and those who do not conform to social expectations. In each case, psychiatric misunderstanding and mistreatment has led to patients’ human rights being violated on a massive scale.

The central, confronting question posed by Punishing the Patient whether people with schizophrenic symptoms have a right to refuse treatment and to be left alone. Powerful interest groups exploit complexities embedded in the answer to this question. Prominent amongst these groups is the transnational pharmaceutical industry, which is seeking to expand the global market for a new generation of schizophrenia drugs.

This seminal, thoughtful book is bound to lead to a re-examination of schizophrenia and its treatment by patients, ex-patients, parents, psychiatrists, politicians, and the State.