Jolijn Santegoeds – Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited

Translation of Dutch article “Waarom gedwongen GGZ behandeling verboden moet worden”

Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited
29 March 2016, by Jolijn Santegoeds, founder of Stichting Mind Rights[1], Co-chair of World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP)[2], board member of European Network of (Ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP)[3]

Click here to download the article:
Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited_29 March 2016


For centuries there has been resistance against forced admission in institutions, confinement in isolation cells, tying persons up with fixation-straps, the forced administration of medication, forced electroshocks, and other forced psychiatric treatments.

Coercion is not care
Coercion is one of the most horrific things that people can do to each other, while good care is actually one of the best things that people can offer to each other. There is a fundamental difference between coercion and care.

Coercion works countereffective to wellbeing, and leads amongst others to despair, fear, anger and grief for the person concerned. During coercion the voice of the person is ignored, and their boundaries are not respected. Coercion does not lead to more safety, or recovery of mental health. On the contrary: By suffering, powerlessness, and a lack of support, the risks for increasing psychosocial problems and escalation increase. Coercion is the opposite of care.

Coercion means a lack of care
Forced psychiatric interventions are not a solution, but are a problem for mental health care. For a long time, the existence of forced treatments, which enables caregivers to turn their back to the crisissituation and leave the person behind without actual support, is undermining the real development of good care practices.

Good care is possible
Good care can prevent coercion. By a respectful attitude and good support, problems and escalation can be prevented successfully, which makes coercion obsolete[4]. Real care is possible.

Efforts are needed
Despite the fact that all stakeholders in Dutch mental health care want to ban coercion[5], the total number of the use of coercion (the number of  legal measures RM and IBS) is rising annually. There are however specific initiatives to reduce coercion at various locations, such as the development of HIC (High/Intensive Care psychiatry)[6], where they aim to prevent solitary confinement by enabling intensive support. On the other hand there is an enormous rise in outpatient coercion (conditional measures), as well as in incidents with “confused people”. It has been concluded a number of times, that the practices are “persistent”, and that the culture is “hard to change”.

Learning from history
Europe has a long history of xenophobia against persons with psychosocial problems. Ever since the 15th century there have been special prison-like “madhouses”, where persons were chained and locked up like beasts, and exorcisms were common. After the discoveries of Charles Darwin and the Renaissance (17th and 18th century), the medical sector started to arise, followed by the arrival of the first Dutch Lunacy-law in the 19thcentury, which arranged “admission and nursing of lunatics in mental hospitals”, with the goal to provide “more humane” care as compared to the madhouses. The young medical science comprised a diversity of perceptions, and in the 20th century a lot of experiments followed, such as hot and cold baths, lobotomy, electroshock and so on. The “special anthropology”[7] or racial-science and eugenics, focussed on the search for the perfect human being, and “racial hygiene” to “avoid deterioration of the race”, openly doubting the capacities of certain populations, which resulted in genocide which didn’t spare psychiatric patients (WOII).

After these dark pages in history, universal declarations of human rights were established, emphasizing the value of each human being, and gradually the community became more tolerant. However, psychiatry hardly changed and held on to the questionable and experimental foundation, with confinement, regulation regimes, and experimental treatment methods as the unchanged core of the treatment range. Currently, efforts are still made to force persons into behavioural changes with the argument that they are “incapable of will” themselves, and not able to express preferences. This is absolutely incorrect: Every person sends signals. The challenge is to deal with that in a good way. Real care notices the person behind the behaviour. Professional care is something totally different than primitive repression of symptoms.

It is time to draw a line. It is urgently needed to recognize that mental health care got on a wrong track by history. Harsh ‘correction’ of persons until they are found ‘good enough’ is not a righteous goal of mental health care. It should be about wellbeing. Coercion is a revealed mistake of mental health care. Innovation is needed.

Worldwide need for coercion-free care
All over the world forced treatment exists. Extremely atrocious images are known from poorer parts of the world, with chained people for example in Asia[8] and Africa[9], but also in our own country with Brandon[10] and Alex[11]. As long as the western world keeps claiming that coercion is the same as good care, these scenes will be harder to ban, especially since several countries have high expectation of the western approach. It is important to come up with good solutions in the world wide search for coercion-free care.

Call by the United Nations
Since 2006, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)[12]exists, which illustrates that a worldwide change is needed towards persons with disabilities. Several UN mechanisms clarify that coercion in care is a violation of human rights[13][14][15][16], also when it comes to the Netherlands[17][18]. A change is needed.

What’s next?
This is an important question.
What do we want now? Are we finally going to make it really right?
Are we going to show ourselves from our best sides?

A real change of culture is needed. Mental health care needs to reinvent itself, and put an end to the confinement and the use of coercion. Good care is possible.

“Yes but it is not possible…”
Commonly heard reactions are “These are good ideals, but not realistic” or “There is no other way, because the system isn’t supportive” or “The community is totally not ready for this”. The implicit assumption that a culture change would be ”unrealistic”, indicates limited perspective, hope and ambition. The system is in our hands. We are the current generation. Change is possible. The world is changing constantly. Also mental health care can change[19][20], as can the public opinion. We are not powerless or insensitive. Efforts are needed to make the world better and nicer together. We can do that.

Change can feel scary. Without positive history or good practices elsewhere it may be a bit harder to imagine that everything can be different, but this cannot be a reason to just give up immediately. We do not question ourselves whether stopping all hunger in the world is realistic before we start with that. Every person counts. Real care is possible and needs to be realized, also in acute and complex crisis situations. Practices of abuse need to stop instantly. This is the task that has been given to our generation. It is worth to unite all our efforts to make the historical shift from exclusion to inclusion.

Also the remark “Yes but coercion is needed, as long as there are no alternatives”  needs to be refuted here. Coercion is not care, but it is abuse, and there is no valid excuse for abuse. Coercion is never needed. Good care is needed.

Making human rights a reality
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) gives a momentum for change. If everyone cooperates now, throughout all layers of the system, then the intended change gets an unprecedented impulse. The articles of the UN-Convention offer a guidance, which enables worldwide coherent action. The UN Convention offers vast opportunities to change the world.

Together we can ban forced psychiatric treatments. When there’s will, there’s a way. In history, confinement was put central, and by now we know better. So we have to do better too. A largely unexplored world is ahead of us.

Key points
It is not easy to change the mental health care system, and the confidence in mental health care doesn’t restore without efforts. Several things are necessary to change the situation sustainably:

-Realise good care
The old fashioned psychiatry is not founded on human rights, diversity and inclusion, but on xenophobia and exclusion. Science has focussed so far on homogenising the community, and attempts to change the people (a bodice and check box mentality). Modern mental health care should focus on enabling a heterogeneous and  diverse community, by creating the right conditions in the community and to enable self-determination, liberty and inclusion, so that everyone can be happy and live a fulfilling life in our community. A fundamental reform is needed in mental health care.

Wellbeing – or mental health – is a very personal intrinsic value, which cannot be produced by coercion. Recovery from psychosocial problems is not an isolated process of the person concerned, but is closely intertwined with the social context of the person, such as chances in life, social acceptance and inclusion. The range of care needs to be reviewed fully, and adapted to the requirements of today.

Deprivation of liberty needs to be stopped immediately. The organization of care of good quality is necessary and urgent, and cannot be postponed any longer. The previous guidelines under the law BOPZ of 1994 to use coercion “as little as possible” and “as short as possible” have failed obviously, and the numbers on the use of coercion (legal measures RM and IBS) continuously keep on rising annually, and have more than doubled in the past 10 years. This trend is unacceptable, and therefore something really needs to change now. A need for support cannot be a reason for deprivation of liberty. Good care is possible.

Without good care, the mess will only transfer. It is absolutely necessary to make all possible efforts right now to provide care of good quality, including good care in crisis situations.

– Legislation: prohibit coercion, arrange care
The legislation on forced psychiatric treatments needs to be changed. The goal of mental health care is not: Treating vulnerable persons in a rough way, but the goal is to provide good care, also in crisis situations. A transition is needed.

The lunacy law dates from 1841, from a time when the medical profession was absolutely in it’s infancy. The law BOPZ of 1994, and also the law proposal on Mandatory Mental Health Care (recent) have a similar structure of legal measures RM and IBS, and resp. confinement and forced treatment form the core. This system is not founded upon awareness of human rights, and it is not about care of good quality, and it has to change.

Forced treatment is abuse. Legislation needs to protect all citizens from abuse. When the government participates in the abuse against certain groups, this is torture[21][22], which is absolutely prohibited. The laws on coercion, such as BOPZ and the law proposal on Mandatory Mental Health Care are therefore unacceptable.

Legislation is meant to offer a fair framework for the community. A prohibition of forced treatments is necessary because of human rights[23]. Additionally, certain legislation can speed up the provision of good care and organize innovation[24]. It is possible to create laws that are really useful to the community. Wouldn’t that be great?

– Compensation: Recognize the seriousness
For years and years, the government and countless caregivers have taken over the lives of psychiatric patients, and forcefully subjected them to “care”, such as horrible forced treatment, isolation cells, forced medication, restraint-belts, electroshocks, all motivated by so-called “good intentions”. The sincerity of those responsible can now prove itself by genuine recognition of the suffering that many had to endure. A compensation would be appropriate: When you break something you have to pay for it. We consider that very normal.

* Apologies are needed to recover the relation between (ex-) users and caregivers.
* Recognition of the trauma’s by coercion, and support in overcoming these if desired.
* Compensation to show that the change of attitude is genuine.

Now it’s time to show that the Netherlands is indeed a civilized country.

Take action
I would like to call on everyone to contribute to the change in culture. Let’s ensure together that human rights will be realized for every human being, and that old-fashioned psychiatry disappears, and that mental health care only comprises good care.

Please spread this message to raise awareness.



To reinforce the above plea, I have attached a description of my personal experiences with forced psychiatry, which can be found via this link:

“16 years old, depressed and tortured in psychiatry – A testimony on forced psychiatric interventions constituting torture and ill-treatment”



This publication is part of the ‘Absolute Prohibition Campaign’, see


[1] Actiegroep Tekeer tegen de isoleer! / Stichting Mind Rights

[2] WNUSP: World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry

[3] ENUSP: European Network of (Ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry

[4] Report: Best practices rondom dwangreductie in de GGZ 2011

[5] Declaration on reduction of coercion:  Intentieverklaring GGZ: preventie van dwang in de GGZ 2011

[6] High Intensive Care HIC (HIC)

[7] Description of Racial-science e.a.: Winkler Prins Algemeene Encyclopaedie, vijfde druk, Elsevier, 1936

[8] Human Rights Watch “Living in hell – abuses against people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia”, 2016

[9] Robin Hammond, fotoserie “Condemned – Mental health in African countries in crisis”

[10] Brandon van Ingen, Jongen al 3 jaar vastgebonden in een zorginstelling

[11] Alex Oudman, Schokkende beelden uit isoleercel – Toen en nu

[12] UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

[13] CRPD General Comment no. 1 on CRPD article 12 Equal Recognition before the law

[14] CRPD Guidelines on CRPD article 14 Liberty and Security of Person

[15] Statement of 2 UN Special Rapporteurs “Dignity must prevail – an appeal to do away with non-consensual psychiatric treatments” World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2015

[16] A/HRC/22/53 Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, Torture in health care settings (2013)

[17] Communication sent to the Kingdom of the Netherlands by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health. AL Health (2002-7) G/SO 214 (53-24) NLD 2/2013, October 2013,

[18] CAT/C/NLD/CO/5-6, CAT Concluding Observations on the Netherlands

[19] High Intensive Care HIC (HIC)

[20] Intensive Home Treatment (IHT)

[21] Torture, for full definitiion see article 1 CAT, Convention Against Torture.

[22] A/HRC/22/53 Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, Torture in health care settings (2013)

[23] amongst others the right to liberty, freedom from torture / Civil and political rights and CRPD

[24] amongst others the right to health care and adequate standard of living / Social, economic and cultural rights and CRPD


Robert Whitaker: Medical Science Argues Against Forced Treatment Too

The argument that is usually made against involuntary commitment and forced treatment is that these actions, under the authority of a state, violate a person’s basic civil rights. They deprive a person of liberty and personal autonomy, and do so in the absence of a criminal charge. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities upholds that position by prohibiting discrimination in relation to these rights. That is a morally powerful argument, and it should stand at the center of any protest against forced treatment.

However, there is another argument, one of adjunctive value, that can be made against involuntary commitment and forced treatment. Medical science argues against forced treatment too.

The “state,” in order to justify involuntary commitment and forced treatment, will argue that such coercion is necessary to provide “medical treatment” to individuals who, because of their impaired state of mind, won’t give their consent to such treatment. The implication is that if the “psychotic” individual were of sound mind, he or she would want this treatment, and thus the state is serving as a helpful guardian. But this “medical” argument falls apart upon close examination.

First, there is evidence that psychiatric hospitalization itself—whether voluntary or involuntary– leads to an increased risk of suicide. In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen looked at the psychiatric care received by 2,429 individuals in the year before they committed suicide, and after matching this group of completed suicides to a control group of 50,323 people in the general population, and after making adjustments for risk factors, they concluded that the risk of dying from suicide rose as people received increasing levels of psychiatric care. Taking psychiatric medications was associated with a six-fold increased likelihood that people would kill themselves; contact with a psychiatric outpatient clinic with an eight-fold increase; visiting a psychiatric emergency room with a 28-fold increase; and admission to a psychiatric hospital a 44-fold increase.[1]

In an editorial that accompanied the article, which was published in the Journal of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the writers—all experts in suicide research—observed that these were robust findings. The Danish study, they wrote, “demonstrated a statistically strong and dose-dependent relationship between the extent of psychiatric treatment and the probability of suicide. This relationship is stepwise, with significant increases in suicide risk occurring with increasing levels of psychiatric treatment.” This link was so strong, they concluded, that “it would seem sensible, for example, all things being equal, to regard a non-depressed person undergoing psychiatric review in the emergency department as at far greater risk [of suicide] than a person with depression, who has only ever been treated in the community.”

These researchers concluded that it is “entirely plausible that the stigma and trauma inherent in (particularly involuntary) psychiatric treatment might, in already vulnerable individuals, contribute to some suicides. We believe that it is likely that a proportion of people who suicide during or after an admission to hospital do so because of factors inherent in that hospitalization.”[2]

Second, from a medical point of view, the “therapeutic relationship” between “patient” and “doctor” is understood to be an important factor to a “good outcome,” and forced treatment regularly leads to a breakdown in that relationship. The personal accounts of people who have been forcibly treated regularly compare it to torture, rape, and so forth. Moreover, these accounts cannot be dismissed as the writings of people who are “impaired” in their thinking, either at the time or later; such personal accounts often reveal an extraordinary level of detail and clarity.

Third, forced treatment regularly involves injections of an antipsychotic, and such initial treatment is regularly a precursor to long-term treatment with such drugs (and often in a coercive manner). However, there is now substantial evidence that such drug treatment over the long term does harm. For instance:

  • There is evidence that the drugs shrink brain volumes, with this shrinkage associated with an increase in negative symptoms, functional impairment, and cognitive decline.[3]
  • The drugs induce tardive dyskinesia in a significant percentage of patients, which reflects permanent damage having been done to the basal ganglia.
  • Martin Harrow, in his longitudinal study of psychotic patients, found that medicated patients fared worse over the long-term on every domain of functioning. The medicated patients were eight times less likely to be in recovery at the end of 15 years than those off the medication.[4]

This is simply a quick review of the medical case that can be made against forced treatment. But even this cursory review tells of treatment that increases the risk of suicide, can prove devastating to the “therapeutic relationship,” and may set a person onto a long-term course of medication use that has been found to be associated with a variety of harms and poor outcomes. As such, the argument that involuntary commitment and forced treatment are in the best “medical” interest of the “impaired” person falls apart when viewed through this scientific lens, and once it does, involuntary commitment and forced treatment can be clearly seen for what they are.

They are not a means for providing necessary “medical help” to an individual. They are an assertion of state authority and power over an individual, and that assertion of authority violates the person’s fundamental civil rights. Any societal discussion of involuntary commitment and forced treatment needs to focus on that issue, and not be distracted by the “medically helpful” claim.


[1] C. Hjorthøj, Risk of suicide according to level of psychiatric treatment—a nationwide nested case control study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol (2014) 49: 1357-65.

[2] M. Large. Disturbing findings about the risk of suicide and psychiatric hospitals. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatry Epidemiol (2014) 49:1353-55.

[3] J. Radua, “Multimodal meta-analysis of structural and functional changes in first 
episode psychosis and the effects of antipsychotic medications,” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review 36 (2012): 2325–33.

[4] M. Harrow. “Factors involved in outcome and recovery in schizophrenia patients not on antipsychotics medications.” J Nerv Ment Dis (2007) 195: 407-414.



In Italy, we don’t have a law against torture, by Erveda Sansi


contro psicofarmaci_col_rid

Drawing by Vincenzo Iannuzzi

 In Italy, the situation in the psychiatric field, with almost no exception, has worsened from the period of questioning psychiatric institution, in the beginning of the sixties. Then, Italy has been at the forefront of the closure of mental hospitals. Not only Giorgio Antonucci, Franco Basaglia and many professionals, but also a good part of the common people, realized that psychiatric hospitals were not places of care. Civil society, then, was sensitive to the issue of smash-down asylum culture. Publications appeared, there was an open debate, workers and students organized themselves and entered in asylums to see the conditions in which their fellow citizens were locked up. They protested and denounced the deplorable conditions the internees were forced to live in.

However, since several years, we observe a re-institutionalisation process and, at the same time, in some Italian hospital’s psychiatric wards happened many deplorable facts, due to forced treatment, institutionalization and forced restraint. Some of these facts have become infamous after that committees and relatives have asked for justice, as in the case of the well liked teacher Francesco Mastrogiovanni, 58 years old, that was debated also on national television channels. Franco Mastrogiovanni, after a forced psychiatric treatment the 4th August 2009, (because of a road traffic offense: circulation, at night, on a street closed to traffic), has been heavily sedated, tied to the bed of Vallo della Lucania’s hospital psychiatric ward, and left to die after four days of abandonment. During the 80 hours hospitalization he was nourished only with saline solutions; he was tied hands and feet to the bed, in such a position that his respiratory functions where compromised, and he was sedated with high doses of psychiatric drugs, without supervision from the staff. At wrists and ankles there are 4 cm wide grazes. A hidden camera recorded everything; the video is of public domain. At the trial the responsible physicians were found guilty and sentenced to 3 and 4 years detention, that, with the mitigating clauses, they won’t have to serve. The 12 nurses were acquitted because “they obeyed an order”. The Committee truth and justice for Francesco Mastrogiovanni, asks for truth and justice. Watch also the film 87 ore (87 hours), gli ultimi giorni di Francesco Mastrogiovanni (Francesco Mastrogiovanni’s the last days) by Costanza Quadriglio.


In Italy some deaths due to forced hospitalization and/or prolonged or short-time use of mechanical and chemical restraint have been reported by the press, television and network (this mean that there are a lot of other such “incidents”, we don’t know):

27 October 2005: Riccardo Rasman dies during a coercive treatment by the policemen, for a hospitalization against his will, in a psychiatric ward in Trieste.

21 June 2006: Giseppe Casu, guilty of having wanted to pursue his peddler job in the village square, dies in a psychiatric ward in the hospital “Santissima Trinità” of Cagliari, as a consequence of a thromboembolism, after a forced hospitalization and having been heavily sedated. He was tied hands and feet to the bed, for 7 days and was sedated with high doses of psychiatric drugs against his will.

28 August 2006: A.S., the 17th of August 2006 is admitted to the psychiatric ward in Palermo, for medical investigations. A.S. died after 2 days coma, the 28th of August, probably for excessive doses of psychiatric drugs.

26 May 2007: Edmond Idehen a 38 years old Nigerian man, went voluntarily into the psychiatric ward of Bologna’s hospital “Istituto Psichiatrico Ottonello – Ospedale Maggiore Bologna”. As he tried to leave the hospital, because he did not feel cared, the doctors forced him to stay, with the help of policemen. Edmond Idehen died as a consequence of a hearth attack while nurses and policemen held him down. He was also strongly sedated with psychiatric drugs.

12 June 2006: Roberto Melino, 24 years old, dies for a hearth attack; he entered voluntarily the psychiatric ward of Empoli’s “San Giuseppe” hospital. As he tried to leave the hospital, he was forced to stay by the doctors, and obliged to take high doses of psychiatric drugs, in spite of his evident and serious breath difficulties.

15 June 2008: Giuseppe Uva, 43 years old, was brought inside a police station, because he was driving in state of high alcoholic level. There he was subjected to ill-treatments. After 3 hours he was forced to an obligatory hospitalization in the Varese’s “Circolo” hospital and was forced to take psychiatric drugs. He died because of the stress provoked by the mix of alcohol and psychiatric drugs.

30 August 2010: Lauretana La Coca, 32 years old, entered voluntarily in Termini Imerese’s “Salvatore Cimino” hospital. After 10 days of hospitalization her condition got worse, till she got into a comatose state and died.

Giuseppe D.: A man, more than 70 years old, was interned in Reggio Emilia’s psychiatric prison. His problem was that the neighbour’s daughter is a psychiatrist. His lawyer took a legal action to the European Court of human Rights, but until now there has been no answer, so the Pisa’s student group “Collettivo Antipsichiatrico Artaud”, together with “Telefono viola” from Milan, decided to release the documentation relating to this case in Internet, according with Giuseppe D.’s will, his lawyer, and his relatives.

2 April 2010: Eric Beamont, 37 years old, the 2 April 2010 was hospitalized in Lamezia. After 2 days he entered coma, so the doctors transferred him to the Catanzaro’s “Pugliese – Ciaccio” hospital, where he died. There is the suspect that the death of Eric was caused from a high dose of benzodiazepine. Diagnosis was: subarachnoid hemorrhage[1]

28 May 2015 Massimiliano Malzone died during a forced treatment.

11 July 2015 Amedeo Testarmata died during a forced treatment.

29 July 2015 Mauro Guerra died during a forced treatment.

5 August 2015 Andrea Soldi died during a forced treatment…

Unfortunately in this article we have not described isolated occurrences, but an emblematic situation of violation of human rights in the Italian psychiatric institutions.

These are just some of the “incidents” that came to the limelight, but many more of them are not known when they happen, because, for example, people who live in loneliness are involved, or people whose relatives have given their consent, or simply when people want to get rid of a person perceived as annoying. We The Mad Hatter Association, constantly of forced psychiatric treatments, during which treated people suffer heavy damages. Forced treatments are often made on request of relatives, when patients refuse to take any longer the psychiatric drugs, or when their behaviour is perceived as disturbing. A friend of us (I.M.) tried to escape, but he was chased and filled with drugs; shortly after he was found dead at the bottom of a ravine. He was 40 years old. Another friend (A.S.) was walking on a path between fields and was stopped by police, because he was known as a “mentally ill” person. Then they called the psychiatrist on duty and told him: “He was walking near the railway and could possibly have in mind to commit suicide”; so they locked him up. I know this person, who often walks in the fields, where, however, it’s easy to be located near the railway, because of the constitution of the territory. He had never the intention of committing suicide. Another acquaintance of us died, throwing himself under a train, terrified by the fact that his mother, according to the psychiatrist, would refer to forced psychiatric treatment for him. Another one (U.S.) has suffered of heavy harassment, after having reported his superior’s embezzlement, noticed during his duties as a municipal technician. He was subjected to forced psychiatric treatment, kidnapped by police in riot gear. While he was sleeping, his door was smashed down, and he was thrown on the ground face down and handcuffed. He says that at least they could have tried to open the door, which was not locked. Now he is terrified and he even fears the dark; he is forced to take psychiatric drugs.

We can not think of de-institutionalization before we have dismissed the rules that allow forced psychiatric treatment, that allow to hold a person against his will, without having committed any crime, without the right to an equitable process, based on the alleged dangerousness and only because this person was diagnosed with a mental illness.

The so called “Basaglia law” the law nr. 180 from 13.5.1978, then joined and actually regulated by Law 833/1978 articles 33, 34, 35, 64, establishes the “Accertamenti e Trattamenti sanitari volontari e obbligatori” (“Forced health verifications and treatments”). In 1978 the law nr. 180 imposed the asylums’ closure, and the elimination of dangerousness or/and public scandal as criterion for forced treatment. But in the most Italian province, asylums didn’t close. So it was necessary to make another law, (because these asylums were too expensive), the law n. 724 from 23.12.1994, art. 3 paragraph 5, which dispose that these asylums had to be closed within the 31.12.1996; again disregarded, differed until the end of 1999. In 1996 the asylum inmates in Italy were 11.516 in 62 public asylums and 4.752 in private asylums.

According to this art. 180 law, forced treatment and included forced hospitalization, are possible if there are the following conditions: 1) a person “suffering mental illness” requires urgent medical treatment; 2) refuse the treatment; 3) it’s not possible to take adequate measures outside the hospitals. Forced treatments has a maximum duration of seven days, but can be renewed if necessary and then extended if it persists for a reasoned clinical need (it’s not an exception that the duration is extended for months and years). For forced treatments and the consequently limitation of personal freedom, there must be a request signed by two physicians, an administrative validation from the Mayor is required, followed by the validation of a judicial review by the Tutelary Judge.

Legislation of forced psychiatric treatment provides ample scope for arbitrariness and it is in strong contrast to the human rights regulations, that aim at preserving even people with disabilities from inhuman and degrading treatments. For those who commit a crime, it is expected that the judicial authority, within certain specific procedural rules, sanctions or imposes restrictive measures. We constantly deal with innocent people in forced psychiatric treatment, who can no longer find a way out of the psychiatric institution.

“I have to confess”, said a psychiatrist, “to have a person completely in my power, made me feel a kind of sadistic shiver”.

In Italy the CRPD was ratified in 2009, but just at now we have not a law against torture, torture is not a crime, torture is not forbidden in Italy. So, those who torture does not violate the law. In the meantime a lot of intermediate psychiatric institutions (also called little asylums) were built. They are public or private and reimbursed from the State. A very great business is behind. Some other examples: Lazio Region President Polverini’s decree on Lazio hospital system: the number of beds in Psychiatric Institutions raise from 369 up to 629; more 70%. 50 beds for the public structure and 210 for the private structure trigger the chronicization circuit.

260 beds = 90.000 life days subtracted to the people at the cost of 10.000.000 €.

Didn’t the Basaglia Law foresee the closing up of madhouses?

  • Professor Antonucci, what is, to date, the status of implementation of the law 180?

– Apart from some single exceptional case, what proposed Franco Basaglia is not realized, but it continues a job that Basaglia obviously would not approve: authoritarian interventions, taking people by force and bring it in psychiatric clinics, which are the continuation of the asylum. The asylum was established by the authoritarian intervention: I take a person against his will, then I submit her to a series of forced interventions, which are the essence of the mental hospital”. (

The deplorable situation of the six Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals recently became more visible, after surprise-inspections of a parliamentary committee. The videos of the visits, showed by the national television, and the press releases can be found on the web. A parliamentary report had already been made in June 2010, but the photographs show a situation that until now has not yet changed. People held for decades for minor offenses, whose penalty would have expired long time since, if not repeatedly and automatically renewed.

Here below we report some data extracted from the text of the parliamentary relation on the June 2010 inspection of the 6 Italian psychiatric prisons (forensic institutions) still active (Senator Ignazio Marino, physician ,was Chair of the Investigative Committee on the National Health Care System). After the 1978 “Basaglia law”, madhouses had to be closed, but the 6 psychiatric prisons mentioned above keep doing the same job. Senator Marino was also concerned about the increasing of electroshock (from 9 institutions allowed to give electroshock before 2008, now we have more than 90 psychiatric institutions who dispense ECT).

The regulations and logics that manage these psychiatric prisons (forensic institutions) (in Italian OPG-Ospedale Psichiatrico Giudiziario), are the same inherited by the fascist Rocco Code (1934). 40 % of the 1500 actual convicted should already have been released, for detention terms expired, but they see their penalty end terms deferred in order of their supposed social dangerousness.

Nine people each cell, dirty bathrooms and bed sheets; dirty nurses’ gowns as well. In Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (Messina), 329 convicted are overcrowded in cells built in 1914. Dirt everywhere. One patient was found naked, tied up to his bed, with a haematoma on his head. Aversa, built in 1898. 320 people locked up six by cell, in inhuman conditions.

NAS (Antisofistication and health nucleus of Carabinieri (Police)) reported and denounced all this to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but this office is often made by the same persons that sentence patients to life.

In the Secondigliano OPG, the psychiatric prison is interior to the jail. Here stays since 25 years a patient who was sentenced two years. Burns and black eyes are not reported on the clinical diary. Feet and hands go gangrenous.

In Montelupo Fiorentino OPG they are 170 in a very scruffy building. In Reggio Emilia OPG they are 274 where they should be 132. 3 showers serve 158 patients. One is tied up to his bed since 5 days for disciplinary reasons. 3 in 9 meters square. “The OPG (psychiatric prison) are one of the “silence zones”, explains Alberto, of the Pisa Antipsychiatric Collective dedicated to Antonin Artaud, “and they show the political use of psychiatry. The consume of psychiatric drugs is more and more pushed, the electroshock comes back “in fashion”, perhaps to “heal post partum depression”. And a law lies in ambush in order to bring the forced hospitalization terms from 7 to 30 days”. After the scandal came to light, on 17 January 2012 the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the definitive closure of the OPG by 31 March 2013. The closure was extended until March 31, 2015. After the closure of the facilities in 2015, according to Law Decree n. 211/2011, converted into Law no. 9/2012, have been replaced by residences for Execution of Security Measures (R.E.M.S.). We have to closedown the Forensic Psychiatric Hospitals, instead of changing the name of them. If we don’t shut dawn these places once and for all, we cannot talk about de-institutionalization. Close them not in order to transfer their users to other psychiatric institutions, but to give these people a life dignity.

A research (source: British Medical Journal) conducted in 6 European countries (Italy, Spain, England, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany), that have closed asylums in the 70s, saw that between 1990 and 2003 an increase in the number of beds in forensic psychiatric hospitals, in psychiatric wards, in so-called safe houses. Supported housing is seen as an alternatives to asylums, as a sign of de-institutionalization, but they are rather a form of institutionalization. Also forced treatments are increasing. It is not clear the reason why the number of beds in Forensic Psychiatric Hospital increased, since there is no correlation between crimes like homicides and de-institutionalized persons.

It would be important to spread the awareness that forced treatments, like the restraint is an anti-therapeutic act, that makes cures more difficult, rather than to facilitate them. Physical restraint is not exercised only in the field of psychiatry. The areas of operation where should be discussed the problem of legitimacy, usefulness and appropriateness of physical restraint, do not consist only in hospitals, but also in nursing homes for the elderly, therapeutic communities for drug addicts and nursing homes for people with disabilities related to congenital or early acquired disabilities. An improvement in psychiatric nursing practice, characterized by the renunciation of physical restraint, would be a strong signal in order to spot out the problem also in other operating environments, urging those who work in this field to act with similar treatment practices, rather than restrictive ones.

Referring to the psychiatric drugs there are rules of the Convention on Human Rights, which require user’s fully informed consent, before administering, even if he’s disabled. Most psychiatric drugs are prescribed for a long time, sometimes for life, without informing the user on their effects, and without any help in the resolution of his real and existential problems. Psychiatric drugs can cause neurological diseases, that sometimes become irreversible. Akathisia, dyskinesia, are very unpleasant effects and can throw a person in despair. Often the user is encouraged to continue taking the drugs even when he asks to withdraw them, and it is almost impossible to find professionals who help and give directions for withdrawal. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, working with institutions as WHO (World Health Organisation) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration), wrote hundreds of pages on the harmful effects of psychiatric drugs. Peter Lehmann, who tested the effects of drugs on himself during his hospitalization in a psychiatric clinic, has published and continues to publish the results of his research for which he uses pharmaceutical and medical literature. The effect of psychiatric drugs is known, but the billion-dollar business behind it is too big to lose it. Peter Lehmann is the first survivor of psychiatry to be awarded with the honorary degree, conferred him by the clinical psychology faculty of the Aristotele’s University of Thessaloniki, for his work as researcher and activist in the field of mental health.

A person who starts to take drugs, in most cases will be induced to take them for life, because they create addiction problems. The psychiatric user develops a very strong dependence toward the psychiatric service too. For the psychiatrists, lack of compliance is in fact intended in it self an aggravation of the disease. Then the conditioning that takes place, goes in the direction of dependence from psychiatric services, of becoming “childish” and “chronic patient”.

Although in almost all European countries asylums and psychiatric hospitals have been eliminated or substantially reduced, this does not mean that in the new post-asylum structures, asylum-dispositifs have been eliminated. People are, with few exceptions, completely sedated by psychiatric drugs, even though apparently there are implemented programs such as art therapy. The intake of psychiatric drugs is induced also in order to make the user unconscious.

Erwin Redig, a German psychiatric survivor, says: “There are people putting us under pressure to force us to take them (psychiatric drugs). If we do not take them, our changes embarrass them. If this is our case, we must make clear to ourselves that we are swallowing drugs for other people’s welfare, because they find us unpleasant if we do not”.

“The dispositif of discomfort-complex, that operates in a small residence, acts more broadly in the society”. Neuroleptic drugs affect thinking, block the flow of thoughts, and make people flatten. I relate the words of a healthcare professional: “As soon as psychiatric drugs are given to people, they literally get extinguished. To what extend is it fair to cancel the person?” Although in the European countries, the asylum psychiatry and the psychiatric hospitalization of users have given way to communities, the psychiatric institution culture has not changed. The patterns of asylum residentiality are still active. But most of all it is still alive an asylum mentality, therefore it is important for everyone to be aware how much everybody’s mentality is crucial in creating or not creating devices that belong to psychiatric institutions; operating devices that constitute a widespread operating module. “Residential Intermediate Structures”, foreseen in Italy by the 1983 law, should have had the provisional nature as their specificity; therefore they should not constitute either a definite admission or a final place for forced hospitalization; they should have been  transitional housing, that could break prejudice and exclusion logics. In March 1999, by a special decree, to the Italian Regions was imposed the definitive closure of the asylums, under threat of strong economic sanctions, because despite the birth, on paper, of the new “local services”, mental hospitals were still crowded with patients.

Named by the derogatory title of “asylum residuals”, for these people that nobody wanted, residential structures accounted for an illusion of freedom; they founded themselves to be again in a mental institution. “Many patients”, writes one of them in an autobiography, “have never been so well in terms of comfort, but nevertheless they are in a state of fearful desolation”.

An induced need of security, the defence from a potentially dangerous mind sick person that at any time, during an outbreak, could commit heinous actions against others or against himself; shortly, on the basis of this need and of this false scientific fundamentals, we build the myth of the need of post-asylums psychiatric institutions. If we don’t get reed of the psychiatric prejudice, the “mental health” institution remains. There are many alternatives pursued by individuals, associations or institutions, but they are deliberately ignored. The responsibility for solving the problems of institutionalization, is not up only to psychiatrists or to mental health professionals, but to the whole civil society. Everybody contributes to the asylum mentality. Users as well, who have internalized the psychiatric diagnosis and can no longer live without it.

Mary Nettle, chairman of Enusp until 2010, expects an increasing involvement of users and survivors of psychiatry in researches about psychiatry; while they often are excluded or not paid on the pretext that they are not professionals.

Although many examples exist that  prove that you can accompany a person in troubles out of his problems, through dialogue and support in the resolution of the objective and material difficulties, and helping him to get awareness of his own rights, these experiments and their positive results continue to be deliberately ignored.


Aporte de Lucila López, Usuaria y sobreviviente de la psiquiatría en Argentina



Señores del Comité sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad:

Solicito tengan a bien dar la merecida atención a todas las voces que elevamos los actores socio-políticos que pedimos la prohibición absoluta de la privación de la libertad por motivos de discapacidad psicosocial.

Lucila López

Usuaria y sobreviviente de la psiquiatría en Argentina.

(también se puede leer en


Intentaré exponer los motivos sobre la importancia de obtener el apoyo necesario para que la Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment  – Campaña de apoyo CDPD COMPROMISO CON LA ABSOLUTA PROHIBICIÓN DE LA INTERNACIÓN Y EL TRATAMIENTO FORZADO iniciada por la Dra. Tina Mikowitz resulte como positivo fortalecimiento al momento de las Observaciones Generales a favor del irrestricto cumplimiento del artículo 14 inc. y todos los artículos vinculantes.

Artículo 14

Libertad y seguridad de la persona

  1. Los Estados Partes asegurarán que las personas con discapacidad, en igualdad de condiciones con las demás:

a) Disfruten del derecho a la libertad y seguridad de la persona;

b) No se vean privadas de su libertad ilegal o arbitrariamente y que cualquier privación de libertad sea de conformidad con la ley, y que la existencia de una discapacidad no justifique en ningún caso una privación de la libertad.

2. Los Estados Partes asegurarán que las personas con discapacidad que se vean privadas de su libertad en razón de un proceso tengan, en igualdad de condiciones con las demás, derecho a garantías de conformidad con el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos y a ser tratadas de conformidad con los objetivos y principios de la presente Convención, incluida la realización de ajustes razonables.

“El Comité sobre los Derechos de las Personas con Discapacidad reafirma que la libertad y la seguridad de la persona es uno de los derechos más preciosos a que tiene derecho. En particular, para las personas con discapacidad, y en especial las personas con discapacidad intelectual y discapacidad psicosocial tienen derecho a la libertad en conformidad con el artículo 14 de la Convención. En él se especifica el alcance del derecho a la libertad y a la seguridad de la persona en relación con las personas con discapacidad, prohíbe toda discriminación basada en la discapacidad. De este modo, el artículo 14 se relaciona directamente con el propósito de la Convención, que es garantizar el disfrute pleno e igual de todos los derechos humanos y las libertades fundamentales a todas las personas con discapacidad y promover el respeto de su dignidad inherente.”[i]


Nada se puede pensar por fuera de un contexto. El tema propuesto es un tema ineludible en términos de un pensamiento con eje en los Derechos Humanos.

Escribir en Argentina sobre la necesidad de garantizar la prohibición absoluta de privar de la libertad a las personas con discapacidad en nombre de tratamientos impuestos, forzados, en contra de la propia voluntad, es escribir en un contexto en el que el respeto a los DD.HH. es ostensiblemente violado provocando actualmente una seria preocupación para el CIDH, específicamente por una presa política. En relación al tema, es significativo que Estela de Carlotto[ii] haya preguntado -¿Cómo se puede decir que está muy bien una mujer presa? Y calificó esa afirmación de la más alta autoridad del país como “una barrabasada”. El texto completo es el siguiente:

“La barrabasada[iii]que dijeron es que la habían visitado en la cárcel y que estaba muy bien. Fue violento. ¿Cómo se puede decir que está muy bien una mujer presa?

Me permito hacer un parangón y preguntar:   ¿Cómo se puede decir que está bien una persona privada de la libertad (presa) por su discapacidad?

Estoy a favor de la prohibición absoluta de la privación de la libertad involuntaria y tratamientos forzados de las personas con discapacidad psicosocial y el compromiso para con todos comienza en el ejercicio para mi propia vida de ese derecho y el Art. 14 de la CDPD me autoriza a exigir el cumplimiento de la norma jurídica.

Mis argumentos son en nombre propio a partir de mis experiencias y la observación de la experiencia de otros, articulando mi condición de usuaria y sobreviviente de la psiquiatría, mi visión como profesional dedicada a la prevención en Salud Mental y Derechos Humanos y como familiar, en tanto soy madre de un hombre que siendo niño y hasta entrada su adultez, necesitó de la protección de sus derechos incluido el derecho a la salud y el derecho a la salud mental.

Estuve privada de la libertad y en contra de mi voluntad por última vez entre el 5 de julio de 2014 y el 12 de enero de 2015. La cuarta vez en mi vida y la más extensa en tiempo.

Esa misma barrabasada “que me encontraban muy bien” la escuché de familiares y amigo/as y me mantuve en un total mutismo.

Desde el año 2011, la crisis anterior con internación contraria a mi voluntad, comencé a guardar mutismo absoluto delante de los que apoyaron esa medida y están dispuestos a apoyarla de nuevo.

¿Por qué guardar mutismo?

Por lo intolerable que resulta la alianza entre los profesionales de la salud mental y familiares y/o amigos:

  • Ignoran la CDPD.
  • No tienen en cuenta el respeto a la persona como un igual.
  • Prevalezcan sobre mi cuerpo y sobre mi psiquismo[iv] decisiones ajenas violatorias de todos
  • Los siguientes derechos enumerados en la CDPD (Ley 26.378) que es parte del cuerpo jurídico de la Constitución Nacional de Argentina.

Artículo 5º

Igualdad y no discriminación

Artículo 12

Igual reconocimiento como persona ante la ley[v]       

Artículo 14

Libertad y seguridad de la persona

Artículo 15

Protección contra la tortura y otros tratos o penas crueles, inhumanos o degradantes

Artículo 17

Protección de la integridad personal

Artículo 18

Libertad de desplazamiento y nacionalidad

Artículo 19

Derecho a vivir de forma independiente y a ser incluido en la comunidad

Artículo 22

Respeto de la privacidad

Artículo 23

Respeto del hogar y de la familia

1.C) Las personas con discapacidad, incluidos los niños y las niñas, mantengan su fertilidad, en igualdad de condiciones con las demás.

Artículo 24


Artículo 25


Artículo 27

Trabajo y empleo

Artículo 28

Nivel de vida adecuado y protección social

Enumerados todos los derechos vinculantes que se violan a partir de la falta de respeto al art. 14, argumentaré los motivos por los que pido la PROHIBICIÓN ABSOLUTA DE LA PRIVACIÓN DE LA LIBERTAD INVOLUNTARIA.

En Argentina, exigir la prohibición absoluta de la libertad involuntaria por motivos de discapacidad psicosocial encuentra un horizonte de futuro posible con la prohibición establecida por la LNSM –Ley 26.657 – de la creación de nuevos manicomios públicos y privados en todo el territorio de la Nación y el cierre definitivo de todos para el año 2020.

La privación forzada de la libertad, -o internación involuntaria- o no por motivos de discapacidad psicosocial es claramente una acción discriminatoria, de acuerdo a la legislación argentina y el marco jurídico internacional:

“La discriminación es el acto de agrupar a los seres humanos según algún criterio que lleva a una forma de relacionarse socialmente. Concretamente, suele ser usado para hacer diferenciaciones que atentan contra la igualdad, ya que implica un posicionamiento jerarquizado entre grupos sociales 1, es decir, cuando se erige un grupo con más legitimidad o poder que el resto.

En el año 1988, se sancionó la Ley Nº 23.592 sobre Actos Discriminatorios que en su Artículo 1º reconoce como discriminación cualquier impedimento o restricción del pleno ejercicio “sobre bases igualitarias de los derechos y garantías fundamentales reconocidos en la Constitución Nacional […] por motivos tales como raza, religión, nacionalidad, ideología, opinión política o gremial, sexo, posición económica, condición social o caracteres físicos”. Asimismo, el documento titulado “Hacia un Plan Nacional contra la Discriminación”, aprobado por Decreto Nº 1086/2005.Instituto Nacional contra la Discriminación, la Xenofobia y el Racismo. (INADI ¿Qué es la discriminación?).-


La privación de la libertad involuntaria a partir de la  CDPD se constituye en un acto de violación de DD.HH.y el Estado se debe responsabilizar de ello[vi] pues  aún cuando en Argentina ha ratificado la CDPD y le ha dado status constitucional:

La Ley Nacional de Salud Mental Ley 26.657- que es considerada una Ley de Salud Mental modelo por todos los avances dirigidos hacia el nuevo paradigma social y del respeto de los DD.HH. de las personas con discapacidad, incurre en la violación del artículo 14 considerando que:

La LNSM En el Capítulo VII, Art. 20) contempla de la internación involuntaria:Ley 26.657 ARTICULO 20. — La internación involuntaria de una persona debe concebirse como recurso terapéutico excepcional en caso de que no sean posibles los abordajes ambulatorios, y sólo podrá realizarse cuando a criterio del equipo de salud mediare situación de riesgo cierto e inminente para sí o para terceros. Para que proceda la internación involuntaria, además de los requisitos comunes a toda internación, debe hacerse constar… “

Acá encontramos un argumento a favor de la internación involuntaria contraria a la letra de la CDPD y su art. 14.-

La idea que prevalece en este artículo de la LNSM es la del paradigma del MMH., encuentra gran receptividad tanto en los profesionales de la salud como así también de familiares. Desde la implementación de la LNSM no se cumple con el art. 14 de la CDPD pero tampoco se cumple con lo que estipula la LNSM en el Art. 20, pues la concepción de recurso terapéutico excepcional se convierte en letra muerta de la ley y es una mera formulación administrativa o de buenas intenciones si se pueden llamar así a los argumentos esgrimidos para privar de la libertad en forma involuntaria.

Este acto discriminatorio y violatorio de DD.HH. goza de un consenso intelectual que supone el encierro de las PcD como “un corte, una instancia de reordenamiento subjetivo”.

El “corte subjetivo” se produce en la PcD en el momento que se denomina crisis y no necesita de ser privada de la libertad. Se puede “volver a la vida plena” en la vida plena de poder padecer un “corte” de “conexión con la realidad” si se brindan todos los apoyos y ajustes necesarios para tornar viable la vida en la comunidad.

No podemos ser discriminados por ser personas con discapacidad psicosocial y considerar terapéutico el encierro y el aislamiento que es una práctica iatrogénica al igual que la medicación forzada.

Vuelvo sobre la necesidad de contextuar el texto.

En Argentina hay una gran resistencia de parte de los profesionales de la salud mental a mencionar el tema discapacidad ligado al tema de las problemáticas de la salud mental.

En este presente inmediato, hablar de Derechos Humanos en Argentina articulados con la Salud Mental o con cualquier otro aspecto de la vida de las personas en general es un tema que pone en cierto peligro a quien se anima a denunciar.

Mi opinión al respecto después de muchos años de indagar el tema es que los profesionales de la salud mental junto a una gran parte de la población no aceptan que las PcD psicosocial somos personas con el reconocimiento de la dignidad y el valor inherentes y de los derechos iguales e inalienables de todos los miembros de la familia humana.

No aceptan la condición de sujeto de derecho en igualdad de condiciones que invoca la CDPD y esto es especialmente notorio al observar que en Argentina, la LNSM Nro. 26.657, es despreciada e incumplida por la corporación médico-psiquiátrica quienes consideran que debe ser derogada porque entre algunos de sus acertados artículos se promueve la interdisciplinariedad, el cierre de la totalidad de los manicomios públicos y privados en todo el territorio nacional y también promueve las internaciones en hospitales generales (considerando el respeto a quien desee ser internado de forma voluntaria).-

El primer obstáculo para hacer notar que el art. 20 de la LNSM 26.657 viola el Art. 14 de la CDPD es que los profesionales de la salud y de la salud mental, los trabajadores sociales y un amplio espectro de la justicia y una enorme masa de la población en general no están dispuestos a respetar los DD.HH. de las PcD psicosocial y que las lógicas manicomiales prevalecen en el imaginario social sobre los avances y cambios que en la materia se vienen discutiendo a nivel mundial.

La mayoría de las internaciones que se realizan son involuntarias y en general no se cumplen los pasos que la LNSM dispone para estos casos. Una ingeniería perversa de mecanismos burocráticos actúa evitando que la información llegue a la justicia en tiempo y forma, haciendo permanecer a una persona hasta por cuatro meses internada sin haber ejercido ni el consentimiento informando sobre el tratamiento que le administran arbitrariamente ni tuvo acceso a un abogado defensor como lo estipula la LNSM.

Es de mi particular interés las internaciones involuntarias de niños/as-adolescentes y jóvenes por motivos vinculados al consumo problemático de sustancias psicotrópicas en instituciones aberrantes con la anuencia de sus familias y también, en el otro extremo del arco, a las personas mayores y la naturalización de su institucionalización en lugares llamados geriátricos, residencias u hogares que también, con un proceder perverso, ocultan las problemáticas de discapacidad mental más propias de la ancianidad, del deterioro cognitivo que puede aparecer con el avance de la edad y otras formas de discapacidad mental que no son atendidas en su particular singularidad y sí son privadas de la libertad casi siempre sin su propio consentimiento.

Entonces sufren internaciones involuntarias y así se violan los DD.HH. de:

Niñas, niños, adolescentes mujeres y hombres, jóvenes, adulta/os y ancianas/os declarados o no personas con discapacidad mental por razones vinculadas a problemáticas de la salud mental.

En todos estos casos prevalece el concepto discriminatorio que no tenemos igual reconocimiento como persona ante la ley.

Partiendo de esta premisa comenzaré a exponer de qué manera la internación, la privación de la libertad involuntaria es una verdadera violación de DD.HH. que comete el Estado atropellando derechos y aumentando la discapacidad y propiciando el empobrecimiento de las personas afectadas en sus intereses económicos, sociales y culturales.

La internación involuntaria es iatrogénica:

  • en lugar de un resultado positivo para la salud, la privación de la libertad junto a tratamientos con drogas psiquiátricas forzados generan enfermedades, atenta contra la salud psíquica y física de la persona y la despoja del ejercicio de un sinfín de derechos aún cuando no se haya restringido su capacidad jurídica y esto también en internaciones –involuntarias o no- a corto plazo.

La realidad de una gran mayoría es que su capacidad jurídica está restringida.

En Argentina actualmente hay más de 20.000 personas privadas de la libertad en manicomios públicos y privados, según datos poco fidedignos, en su mayoría hombres entre 20 y 40 años que en su mayoría llevan un promedio de 15 a 20 años de privación de la libertad. De esa mayoría un número elevado entró en el circuito de las internaciones por consumo problemático de sustancias psicotrópicas siendo el alcohol la que encabeza el listado de ellas, que no es una droga ilegal.

Es muy llamativo que los datos oficiales oculten las cifras que puedan informar la cantidad de niñas y mujeres privadas de la libertad de manera involuntaria que hay en el país y me animo a decir que debe ser significativamente superior a la cantidad de hombres privados de la libertad.

En todos o en casi todos esos casos, ya sea en el ámbito público como en el privado la violación al art. 14 de la CDPD conlleva la violación de todos los otros artículos de la CDPD enumerados anteriormente.

La libertad y la seguridad de la persona son avasalladas y entonces su integridad en el más amplio concepto de la palabra también.

Hay una gran parte de la población privada de la libertad por motivos de discapacidad psicosocial que desconocen su verdadera identidad. Están desprovistas de documentos de identidad. No tienen contacto con familiares desde hace años y han sido separados de su comunidad.

Muchos, con estudios iniciados, han perdido el derecho a continuarlos, otros directamente no acceden porque comienzan el derrotero de las internaciones psiquiátricas durante la infancia. Conocí en el manicomio a un hombre mayor de cincuenta años que estaba internado desde los cinco años, desde su primera infancia… y allí murió.

Las instituciones psiquiátricas tienden a incurrir en una doble violación al Derecho a la Salud, en tanto:

  1. La privación de la libertad involuntaria o no, es iatrogénica.
  2. La PcD psicosocial internada en instituciones psiquiátricas suele carecer de verdadera atención médica en otros aspectos que su salud requiera: la aparición de síntomas de un quebrantamiento de la salud física suele ser ignorado, “interpretado” como síntoma o manipulación de la PcD desde el discurso médico-psiquiátrico y también, se le niega el acceso a profesionales de otras especialidades. Ejemplo: la asistencia de un otorrinolaringólogo… “porque es incómodo el traslado a un servicio especializado” y la persona debe aceptar y tolerar no ser atendida. Esta triste realidad trae aparejado resultados muy graves: muertes por enfermedades tratables tanto en la población femenina como en la masculina. También se les niega el acceso a los tratamientos indicados por médicos especialistas en el caso que tengan acceso a una consulta.

Todo esto está reñido con el principio básico del ser en igualdad de condiciones.

La vida privada de la libertad “no es vida”.

La privación de la libertad acompañada por el tratamiento forzada con drogas psiquiátricas provoca una especie de muerte psíquica.

Los acontecimientos de la vida cotidiana bajo los efectos de la medicación psiquiátrica –forzada o no, dentro y fuera de la internación- se perciben como si se mirara a través de un vidrio esmerilado, la voz de los otros llega a uno con un efecto retardado, y nuestros pensamientos también resultan lentos bajo los efectos de las drogas psiquiátricas. El contacto con el otro, con el afuera, está “mediado” por una cortina invisible que ralentiza los movimientos por el cuerpo rigidizado y los sentidos aletargados.

Así, el otro, cualquiera que sea, nos percibe “raros” “distintos” y los médicos aseveran que es el “devenir propio de la enfermedad diagnosticada” negando de cuajo que ese estado es el efecto de la privación de la libertad y del tratamiento químico forzado.

Con la privación de la libertad involuntaria, suele aparecer un estado de apatía profundo, un gran desinterés por todo… en mi experiencia esta apatía y el desinterés –incluso de hablar y permanecer en un mutismo absoluto- lo produce la imposibilidad de comprender que para el círculo de personas de mi afecto, esa situación fuera considerada buena, que dijeran que me “encontraban mejor”… si realmente esa es la mirada que tienen mis afectos cercanos, sean familiares o amigos, debo decir que no tienen registro alguno de las vivencias ciertas de humillación y maltrato que se viven en una internación.

Hay personas que estando internadas involuntariamente, hacen abandono de su aspecto físico y de su higiene. También eso es leído como un aspecto de “su enfermedad”… no se lee como un efecto iatrogénico de la privación de la libertad.

Los cambios a los que el cuerpo se ve sometido, desde el notorio aumento de peso con la pérdida de las formas propias del cuerpo y además, la falta de agilidad que provoca la medicación que rigidiza los músculos y el estado de “desconexión” que las mismas producen – y se aumenta notablemente con la privación de la libertad-, son otros aspectos que la persona padece, que pueden resultar motivo de vergüenza o mayor disminución de la estima.

La persona privada de la libertad, en un manicomio, tiene que poder evaluar estrategias de supervivencia y muchas veces, las elecciones son “el mal menor” y no lo que corresponde ni es justo ni a lo que se tiene derecho aún cuando se sea plenamente consciente de que se tiene derecho.

Cabe aclarar que una gran mayoría de la población internada desconoce todos sus derechos y además, cree que no los tiene. En las PcD psicosocial institucionalizadas durante muchos años en forma permanente o intermitente, se notan conductas propias de las personas sometidas a gran sometimiento y la faceta que muestran con claridad es la idea de “no tener derechos”

Así es muy poco probable que ellos luchen por una forma de vida independiente, el derecho a ser incluid en la comunidad en igualdad de condiciones porque se perciben así mismos como “personas enfermas”

Es común escuchar a adolescentes afectados a tratamientos -involuntarios o no- por consumo excesivo de drogas psicotrópicas, y en especial alcohol, decir “no tengo derecho a nada porque he consumido drogas y ese discurso es avalado por los responsables de su rehabilitación y tratamiento y en cierta medida y en muchas oportunidades también ese concepto es sostenido por familiares, se suma a esto que los profesionales de la salud mental encuentran dificultades para aceptar que los problemas derivados del consumo excesivo de drogas legales o ilegales es un tema que debe ser abordado dentro del ámbito de la salud… y son enviados a lugares de encierro con un régimen propio y diría “sin ley” donde prevalece la ley del más fuerte que suele ser en general “un adicto recuperado” que impone tratos degradantes.

Así, son salvajemente humillados y denigrados, abusados sexualmente y de otras formas niñas/niños y adolescentes sometidos a trabajo solamente comparables a la tortura y la esclavitud en el marco de internaciones forzadas o no.

En relación a esta problemática de la salud mental el entramado es de una gran complejidad y la violación de DD.HH. es indescriptible.

Nadie que está privado de la libertad tiene la posibilidad de decidir un lugar de residencia por fuera del manicomio que le ha tocado en desgracia y en virtud de su status social o el de su familia…

La mayor cantidad de personas privadas de la libertad de modo involuntario lo son por problemas sociales y al mismo tiempo:

La mayor parte de las problemáticas llamadas “enfermedades mentales” provienen de problemas sociales no atendidos debidamente por el Estado y afectan de manera altamente significativa a la población de menos recursos.

Poblaciones importantes en las que, de generación en generación, han transcurrido sus vidas en situaciones de extrema pobreza sin conocimiento de los Derechos Humanos que los asisten si tienen la desgracia de “caer en el manicomio, no tienen salida”. Se patologiza la pobreza!!! Hay un perverso discurso que “dice que la persona no ha sido capaz de tener ingresos adecuados para su sustento y/o el de su familia y garantizar vivienda, educación y salud”.

Esa supuesta enfermedad de una persona: ¿cómo se llama cuándo el sistema de salud mental con la privación de la libertad –involuntaria o no- des-ancla a la persona de su vida, de sus bienes, de sus ingresos económicos, de su universidad o de su escuela de estudios primarios y así, la deja en un vacío de derechos y sobre eso la re-diagnostica?

No hay mayor factor discapacitante que la pobreza, el hambre, la falta de techo y de educación. Y eso puede ser un punto de partida o de llegada para una persona con discapacidad social.

También muchas personas que caen abruptamente en la pobreza como consecuencia de las crisis económicas que se conocen como “respuestas al humor de los mercados”, es decir: las crisis económicas resultado de propuestas políticas neoliberales y del salvaje capitalismo, arrojan a la “locura” y al intento de suicidio –cuando no a la muerte misma- a muchas personas que mantuvieron durante gran parte de su vida un status de vida acorde a los derechos propios de una persona trabajadora con derecho al trabajo, la salud y la vivienda como derechos básicos inalienables y esas personas, recalan en los manicomios con un diagnóstico de enfermos psiquiátricos pero en sus Historias Clínicas no constan las condiciones de existencia al momento de la internación ni sus antecedentes culturales, laborales, familiares y sociales, ni nada, absolutamente nada de su vida antes de haber sido calificado como enfermo/a psiquiátrico/a.

Con horror observo que la familia reproduce el sistema de pensamiento manicomial.

La misma familia termina violando el derecho al hogar y la familia.

Poco a poco se aleja hasta dejar en el abandono a la persona.

Se la priva de la familia, de los hijos y de los nietos.

La familia se aleja porque es estigmatizada y además no recibe psico-educación alguna para albergar al familiar que sufre y contribuir a su inserción en la comunidad. Todo lo contrario, siempre se acentúa el hecho que la persona está enferma, que su enfermedad es incurable y que con el tiempo estará cada vez peor.

Eso es verdad cuando a una persona la privan de la libertad, en forma involuntaria o no, porque todo lo que le va pasando no es consecuencia de su padecimiento espiritual, emocional o psíquico… es consecuencia del asilamiento tras los muros agudizado por la “droga- dependencia- inducida” y por la soledad impuesta, que llega a sus grados de tortura más elevado en las celdas de aislamiento o con la sujeción mecánica en los casos que la persona presente algún tipo de excitación motriz que bien pudo ser ocasionada por un ”medicamento” o por falta de una caricia… por un miedo extremo o por una profunda angustia que nadie parece dispuesto a aliviar con un acompañar en un cuerpo a cuerpo hasta que el terror disminuya.

¿Dónde están escritas las bases del encierro involuntario como forma de cura?

En la decisión de privar de la libertad a una persona con discapacidad psicosocial de manera forzada hay un pensamiento, hay una lógica “a priori” que dispone que esa persona “no tiene cura en su enfermedad” y es una persona gravosa para la comunidad a la que se atribuyen todo tipos de males para sí mismo y o para terceros y que merecen la condena del encierro. Esto subyace en el pensamiento de quienes ejercen autoridad sobre la PcD psicosocial y le restringen la vida y la sumen en una vida en su mínima expresión, carente de sueños y anhelos, de amor y de libertad.

En Argentina los manicomios en su mayoría cuentan con “dispositivos de inserción laboral” a los cuales las personas privadas de la libertad son “invitados” a participar. Esa invitación y la aceptación o no, lleva a aumentar la cantidad de etiquetas que una persona puede ir sumando en el encierro de acuerdo a lo que se llama la falta o no de “adherencia al tratamiento”. Si la persona acepta trabajar en un emprendimiento de inserción laboral intra-hospitalario, recibirá un peculio[vii]… una míseros centavos por su trabajo y si no acepta, se le calificará como a una persona “institucionalizada que no tiene voluntad ni interés en el trabajo” y con pocas posibilidades de su inserción en la comunidad.

Las personas que estando internadas nos preocupamos por nuestra situación laboral somos desmotivadas y se nos promueve un pensamiento basado en la imposibilidad de continuar con tareas “normales” y el “beneficio” de acceder a “pensiones por discapacidad”.

Sostener delante de un psiquiatra la firme decisión de continuar trabajando en el mercado de trabajo como un ciudadano más, es descalificado en sus palabras, se es tratado como una persona que niega su “incapacidad” y lo usual es que el médico psiquiatra desconozca absolutamente todo lo referido a esa persona: sus estudios, su historia laboral y su estándar de vida si se trata de un manicomio púbico y en uno privado, si la persona en situación de encierro tiene un estar en el mundo alivianado de preocupaciones económicas porque posee dinero suficiente… no es menos descalificado… solo que esa persona puede llegar a tener más posibilidades de una vida autónoma si es que los familiares no lo inhabilitan restringiendo su capacidad jurídica para hacer ellos, usufructo de los bienes económicos de la persona con discapacidad.

Ninguna persona que tenga como único sustento en Argentina una pensión por discapacidad puede acceder a una canasta básica de alimentos, ni a la vivienda ni a la salud, no puede tener una vida independiente y autónoma ni puede vivir con libertad en la comunidad porque sus ingresos económicos, que son considerados “un beneficio” social, no le permiten tener ninguna autonomía económica.

No existe un nivel de vida adecuado ni protección social verdadera.

Vuelvo sobre el rechazo en Argentina de parte de los profesionales de la salud por la noción de discapacidad de la “persona con padecimiento mental” en cualquiera de sus manifestaciones.

La discapacidad es una concepción que pone en cuestión a la tan preciada, tanto como despreciada “enfermedad mental” corriendo el eje de la enfermedad individual al eje de las barreras sociales que obstaculizan la libertad individual, lo que se da en llamar el cambio de paradigma.

Los aún hoy promotores de las lógicas manicomiales encuentran en la concepción de la discapacidad una herramienta que otorga derecho a quienes ellos le quieren negar -ya no los derechos- si no la vida misma condenándoles al encierro y al estado de ser muertos vivientes, verdaderos zombis que deambulan entre los muros sin más pregunta que si la inmunda comida llegó a la mesa o no… si alguien se acordó de su existencia y llegó de visita o no…

A las mujeres privadas de la libertad se les puede llegar a producir la esterilidad quirúrgica…de modo involuntario… como se las puede prostituir… o abusar sexualmente de ellas y provocarle embarazos no deseados y hasta obligarlas a abortos o someterlas al robo de sus hijos…

Ingresar al manicomio es ingresar a la mismísima anomia[viii]: no se tuvo vida, la vida comienza y termina en los muros del manicomio.

La falta de ley a la que la palabra anomia refiere es lo que hace del manicomio un territorio que es tierra de nadie… y feudo de unos cuántos a la vez… en ese feudo la crueldad es ejercida con menos sutileza a medida que el ejecutor se aleja de la jerarquía del psiquiatra… y llega al personal de limpieza…

La degradación del concepto de ser humano y ser humano en igualdad de condiciones se traduce en el concepto de enfermo mental que es legislado por una concepción que se rige por un supuesto científico que designa la normalidad de las personas…

¿Quién puede decir yo soy normal, usted es normal y usted no sin sonrojarse?

Solamente alguien enceguecido de soberbia, solamente un ser que tanto teme a la locura, es capaz de pensar que es posible encerrarla tras los muros sin cometer violación de DD.HH.

La anomia en este caso es el estado provocado por un conjunto de personas que han degradado del juramento hipocrático y de otras que ejercen la violación de Derechos Humanos.

Para los que imponen esa legislación –paradójicamente carente de ley- para los que degradan con sus conceptos la condición humana al extremo de la privación involuntaria de la libertad, de tratamientos forzados, de humillaciones, torturas y tratos degradantes… para ellos la concepción de la diversidad funcional no existe y sin embargo, los involucra en tanto seres humanos- lo peor que les puede pasar es probar su propia medicina.

Puedo escribir miles de palabras más para tratar de transmitir la tortura que significa ser privada de la libertad – forma involuntaria o no- y de las graves consecuencias en mi salud y la observada en la salud de otros, como yo, obligados a la ingesta de drogas psiquiátricas en contra de nuestra voluntad.

Sin embargo, los profesionales de la salud mental con compendios de siglas alfanuméricas que definen conductas como los son los DSM y el CIE viven tan pagados de sus saberes y tan pagados por la industria farmacéutica y por los circuitos económicos que se destinan al sistema de salud,

  • son incapaces de recapacitar sobre sus prácticas, sobre su negación del paradigma de la discapacidad y ni pensar que puedan asomar su inteligencia al mundo de la diversidad funcional,
  • ni pueden comprender un mundo en evolución a velocidades nunca vividas en direcciones impensables hace menos de un cuarto de siglo, que desborda de nuevas problemáticas sociales donde todo parece desquiciado[ix] y estallado -y no necesariamente enfermo- sino nuevo y desconocido.

Como nuevo y desconocido hasta hace poco en Argentina es que nosotros, las PcD psicosocial, tenemos derechos y somos sujetos de derechos, pedimos trato en pie de igualdad y nos negamos a la internación involuntaria y al tratamiento forzado.

Hay una palabra en psicología muy interesante: constructo.

No voy a definir con exactitud el término, voy a explicar que constructo viene a designar esos aspectos que se saben que existen pero son difíciles de probar, de definir o controvertidos al momento de querer hacerlos “objetivables”.

Son constructos la inteligencia, la personalidad y la creatividad.

Me pregunto en qué lugar del cerebro está el recuerdo del olor dulce de mi abuela paterna… y de la voz de mi madre… dónde se guardan las canciones de cuna con las que he mecido el sueño de mis niños… dónde en el cerebro está el registro del primer diente, de la primera risa, de la primera travesura de mis hijos…en qué célula está el clima que rodeaba la escena que recuerdo de mi padre lustrando mis zapatos para ir a la escuela… dónde viven en mí los cuentos de hadas y brujas, el encanto del otoño teñido con el recuerdo del primer beso… donde se localizan los recuerdos de los compañeros desaparecidos, cómo perduran sus voces a pesar de los años… dónde se almacena todo lo aprendido y dónde permanece lo desaprendido, donde se produce y se reproduce la capacidad de amar cuando se ha sido vejada… cómo y donde están objetivados en mi cerebro lo que me permite pensar en colores para pintar, danzar, reír y llorar… olvidar y recordar…

Me pregunto de qué otra manera se puede privar de la libertad en forma involuntaria si no es a la fuerza y si no es desconociendo los derechos que nos atañen.

Esa fuerza tan bien descrita por Antonin Artaud en su CARTA A LOS DIRECTORES DE LOS ASILOS DE LOS LOCOS. “……………………………………………………….No nos sorprende ver hasta qué punto ustedes están por debajo de una tarea para la que sólo hay muy pocos predestinados. Pero nos rebelamos contra el derecho concedido a ciertos hombres – incapacitados o no – de dar por terminadas sus investigaciones en el campo del espíritu con un veredicto de encarcelamiento perpetuo……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ¡Y qué encarcelamiento! Se sabe – nunca se sabrá lo suficiente – que los asilos, lejos de ser “asilos”, son cárceles horrendas donde los recluidos proveen mano de obra gratuita y cómoda, y donde la brutalidad es norma. Y ustedes toleran todo esto. El hospicio de alienados, bajo el amparo de la ciencia y de la justicia, es comparable a los cuarteles, a las cárceles, a los penales…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Esperamos que mañana por la mañana, a la hora de la visita médica, recuerden esto, cuando traten de conversar sin léxico con esos hombres sobre los cuales – reconózcanlo – sólo tienen la superioridad que da la fuerza.[x]

Lucila López

Usuaria y Sobreviviente de la Psiquiatría                                                                                           Psicóloga Social                                                                                                                                                                                            Psicodramatista                                                                                                                                       Analista Institucional                                                                                                                             Agente Comunitaria en Prevención de adicciones.

Miembro de WNUSP

Miembro de INWWD 








[i] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities /Guidelines on article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesThe right to liberty and security of persons with disabilities/

Adopted during the Committee’s 14th session, held in September 2015

[ii] Estela de Carlotto, Presidenta a Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo uno de los organismos más importantes de Derechos Humanos de la Argentina.

[iii] *) Barrabasada: 2. Hecho equivocado que origina un gran destrozo o perjuicio. (evil thing) RAE

[iv] Y la de todos los privados de la libertad por motivos de discapacidad psicosocial.

[v] Ley NSM viola el art. 12 al decir: “Se presume la capacidad jurídica”… En la CDPD el art. 12 especifica “igual reconocimiento ante la ley”…


[vi] Se hace indispensable el resarcimiento económico.

[vii] *) Para el libre ejercicio del artículo 19, el respeto absoluto del art. 27 – Trabajo y empleo es una condición inalienable y elemental.

Me voy a detener a explicar en el significado de peculio porque es gravísimo que haya muchas PcD psicosocial y con otras discapacidades también, que trabajen con carácter obligatorio y sean pagadas con un peculio porque eso es rayano a un sistema de esclavitud.  El Derecho al Trabajo y al Empleo se viola de manera flagrante y es una vergüenza.

Peculio.- Significado – etimología- definiciones. Del lat. peculium.

  1. m. Dinero y bienes propios de una persona.
  2. m. Hacienda o caudal que el padre o señor permitía al hijo o siervo para su uso y comercio.

La palabra peculio proviene en su etimología del latín “peculium” que a su vez deriva de “pecus” que significa ganado, ya que esa era la medida que se aplicaba para valorar los bienes, cuando no existía la moneda. Los peculios eran porciones pequeñas de bie

nes, que se separaban en el antiguo Derecho Romano, del patrimonio familiar, que pertenecía en su integridad y en propiedad al pater, jefe de la unidad político religiosa en qué consistía la familia, y varón de mayor edad dentro de ella. Destina una pequeña porción a hijo y esclavos. También relacionado con el ámbito carcelario.

Hasta hace pocos días el peculio era de $150.- mensuales, equivalentes a  u$s 0,34 diarios.

Actualmente el peculio es $300.- mensuales equivalente a u$s 20,34 = u$s 0,68 diarios.

Los talleres protegidos para personas con discapacidad están naturalizados y solamente en la Provincia de Buenos Aires, hay 4.500 personas con discapacidad que trabajan en más 173 talleres protegidos.  En la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires un importante taller protegido, las personas con discapacidad psicosocial  hacen  los muebles para la administración pública y hospitales de la ciudad.

El actual valor del peculio en la Provincia de Buenos Aires fue anunciado hace pocos días por el Ministro de Desarrollos Social quien dijo: “van a recibir 300 pesos por mes como parte del peculio, en lugar de los 150 que cobran actualmente, que van a servir no solo para ayudar a ellos sino también a sus familias”. Asimismo informó que los operarios recibirán una tarjeta para la compra de productos alimenticios por un monto de 100 pesos mensuales. (equivalente a u$s 0,21 diarios ¡para alimentos! ¿Y consideran que deben ayudar a la familia!

Al día 14 de enero de 2016 se les adeudaba el pago desde septiembre de 2015.

[viii] Anomia: del gr. ἀνομία anomía.1. f. Ausencia de ley. 2. f. Psicol. y Sociol. Conjunto de situaciones que derivan de la carencia de normas sociales o de su degradación RAE

[ix] Desquiciar

  1. tr. Desencajar o sacar de quicio algo. Desquiciar una puerta, una ventana.U. t. c. prnl. U. t. en sent. fig.
  2. tr. Descomponer algo quitándole la firmeza con que se mantenía. U. t. c. prnl.
  3. tr. Trastornar, descomponer o exasperar a alguien. U. t. c. prnl.
  4. tr. p. us. Hacer perder a alguien la privanza, o la amistad o valimiento con otrapersona. RAE







-We are not violating the human rights. -Yes, you are! by Anne Grethe Teien


Psychiatric human rights violations are often  denied and trivialized, even distortedly re-defined as “human rights” and “right to necessary health help”. The UN convention for the rights of persons with disabilities, CRPD,  is changing that. CRPD demands an absolute prohibition of forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment. These are important requirements in giving people with psychosocial disabilities equal human rights. In this text, I will look at different aspects of the CRPD related to that demand. I will illustrate with some references to Norway, the country where I live, showing ways in which the Norwegian Mental Health Act does not comply with the convention. I will also share some further reflections. Towards the end I have written a short version of my own experiences from forced psychiatry.  Mental health laws may vary between countries, but some elements are prevalent: the laws are typically directed specifically towards people with psychosocial disabilities and involve forced treatment and involuntary commitment . This text is written for the Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Forced Treatment and Involuntary Commitment (17). Procrastinations must stop – CRPD-based law reforms must begin!

Norway and the CRPD 

Norway ratified the CRPD June 3rd 2013, but came up with some interpretative declarations of article 12, 14 and 25 that undermine central parts of the convention (1).  Norway uses these declarations to try to defend the Mental Health Act and forced psychiatric treatment. In February 2015, the president of the Norwegian Psychological Association, Tor Levin Hofgaard, wrote an article asking for a clarification from the government whether health personnel violate the human rights when they follow the coercion regulations in the Mental Health Act (2). He referred to a report sent to the authorities in December 2013 by the then Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud –  LDO, Sunniva Ørstavik (3). The report said that the Mental Health Act is discriminatory and does not comply with the CRPD. LDO also urged Norway to quickly withdraw its interpretative declarations. In public, the LDO report was met with a noisy silence by the authorities.  So, as time had went on, Hofgaard asked for the mentioned clarification.  Anne Grethe Erlandsen, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Care Services, answered on behalf of the Norwegian authorities: “Vi bryter ikke menneskerettighetene” / – We are not violating the human rights (4). That answer is absolutely not right.

Norway uses much coercion in psychiatry. In spite of reduction strategies, the use of coercion stays at stably high levels (3: p.6-8; 5: p.20-23). Also, reduction strategies instead of CRPD-based abolishment strategies do not go to the core of the issue. Norway is used to see itself as a human rights protective nation and often does not hesitate to criticize other countries for their human rights violations. So it is maybe hard for the authorities to take in that the state of Norway  is actually accepting torture and other severe human rights abuses in its own mental health system, via the Mental Health Act.  Point 42 of the CRPD General Comments No 1 says as follows:

As has been stated by the Committee in several concluding observations, forced treatment by psychiatric and other health and medical professionals is a violation of the right to equal recognition before the law and an infringement of the rights to personal integrity (art. 17); freedom from torture (art. 15); and freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse (art. 16). This practice denies the legal capacity of a person to choose medical treatment and is therefore a violation of article 12 of the Convention. States parties must, instead, respect the legal capacity of persons with disabilities to make decisions at all times, including in crisis situations; must ensure that accurate and accessible information is provided about service options and that non-medical approaches are made available; and must provide access to independent support. States parties have an obligation to provide access to support for decisions regarding psychiatric and other medical treatment. Forced treatment is a particular problem for persons with psychosocial, intellectual and other cognitive disabilities. States parties must abolish policies and legislative provisions that allow or perpetrate forced treatment, as it is an ongoing violation found in mental health laws across the globe, despite empirical evidence indicating its lack of effectiveness and the views of people using mental health systems who have experienced deep pain and trauma as a result of forced treatment. The Committee recommends that States parties ensure that decisions relating to a person’s physical or mental integrity can only be taken with the free and informed consent of the person concerned.“ (6: #42)

Neglected harms and traumas – and the need for reparations

Long-term studies have shown higher recovery rates for people who were not on neuroleptics and on very low doses (14, 15). The list of potential harmful effects from neuroleptic drugs is long, including tardive dyskinesia, brain damage, cognitive decline, neuroleptic-induced supersensitivity psychosis, Parkinsonism, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, diabetes, demotivation, anxiety, aggression, suicide, akathisia [ an extreme form of restlessness which in itself can lead to suicide], neuroleptic malignant syndrome — a potentially lethal complication of treatment etc (14, 18). In a research summary on possible harms from forced psychiatry done by nurse and researcher Reidun Norvoll, she listed the following main categories:  1) violation of autonomy and of psychological and physical integrity. Deprivation of freedom of movement (deprivation of freedom). 2) Physical harm and death. 3) Violence and abuse. 4) Trauma, retraumatisation and posttraumatic stress syndrome. 5) Offences/violations, loss of dignity and experiences of punishment. 6) Psychological agony in the forms of shame, anxiety, feeling unsafe, anger, powerlessness, depression and loss of self esteem. 7) Social problems  and loss of social identity. 8) Loss of access to own coping skills and of possibilities to self development. 9) Loss of access to voluntary treatment. 10) Harmed therapeutic relationships, resentment against- and distrust in mental health services. (7: p. 16; 8: #5.3).

It can be hard to process traumas that are not acknowledged and understood as such by society in general. When mental health services represents the abuser and as it is officially seen as the mental health helper, one can be left in a very lonely situation trying to handle psychiatry-induced traumas.  I think, as part of the implementation of CRPD, there should be provided access to help and support to those who struggle with traumas and other harms from forced psychiatry.  I imagine a reality where it is possible for everyone to ask for help when they feel they need it, knowing that they have the CRPD on their side; that the state can not expose them to torture and other terrible human rights violations for being in mental pain (!).

When the necessary abolishment of discriminatory mental health laws and the prohibition of forced psychiatric treatment and commitment has become reality, I think that representatives from politics and psychiatry should publicly perform statements about- and apologies for -the severe human rights abuses that have been going on for so long towards people with psychosocial disabilities. After all the societal acceptance, silence and denial of these kinds of abuses, I think such an acknowledgement and apology is of significant importance for starting reparation work. Compensations  is also a relevant part of this.  At the same time, there should be no pressure towards victims of forced psychiatry to forgive and get over.  I strongly recommend survivor and lawyer Hege Orefellen’s appeal on the urgent need for effective remedies, redress and guarantees of non-repetition regarding torture and other ill-treatment in psychiatry (9). Her appeal was held during a CRPD side-event about article 15 and its potential to end impunity for torture in psychiatry (10). Also, in Guidelines on article 14 of the CRPD, point 24 (a-f) one can read about “access to justice, reparation and redress to persons with disabilities deprived of their liberty in infringement of article 14 taken alone, and taken in conjunction with article 12 and/or article 15 of the Convention” (11).

Danger- and treatment criteria 

The Norwegian Mental Health Act has, in addition to its danger criteria, a criterion called the treatment criterion, which does not require danger to oneself or others. The treatment criterion allows for psychiatric coercion if the person is claimed to have a severe mental disorder,  and application of forced psychiatry is seen as necessary to prevent the person from having his/her prospects for recovery or significant improvement seriously reduced; alternatively that it’s seen as very possible that the person’s condition in the very near future will significantly deteriorate without coercion (12: Section 3 – 3. 3 a). A very wishy-washy criterion indeed, which is much in use. In 2014 the treatment criterion alone was used in 72% of the cases among people commited (16: p.37).

Both the treatment criterion and the criteria regarding danger to oneself or others discriminate against people with psychosocial disabilities in that disability, or ‘serious mental disorder’,  is a premise for psychiatric coercion to apply. In other words, this discrimination is a violation of CRPD article 14 which says that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty (13). Secondly, as the Mental Health Act allows for forced psychiatric treatment, it violates the right to personal integrity (art. 17); freedom from torture (art. 15); and freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse (art. 16). (6:#42).

Points 13-15 in the Guidelines on article 14 are also relevant in this context:

VII. Deprivation of liberty on the basis of perceived dangerousness of persons with disabilities, alleged need for care or treatment, or any other reasons. 

  1. Throughout all the reviews of State party reports, the Committee has established that it is contrary to article 14 to allow for the detention of persons with disabilities based on the perceived danger of persons to themselves or to others. The involuntary detention of persons with disabilities based on risk or dangerousness, alleged need of care or treatment or other reasons tied to impairment or health diagnosis is contrary to the right to liberty, and amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
  1. Persons with intellectual or psychosocial impairments are frequently considered dangerous to themselves and others when they do not consent to and/or resist medical or therapeutic treatment. All persons, including those with disabilities, have a duty to do no harm. Legal systems based on the rule of law have criminal and other laws in place to deal with the breach of this obligation. Persons with disabilities are frequently denied equal protection under these laws by being diverted to a separate track of law, including through mental health laws. These laws and procedures commonly have a lower standard when it comes to human rights protection, particularly the right to due process and fair trial, and are incompatible with article 13 in conjunction with article 14 of the Convention. 
  1. The freedom to make one’s own choices established as a principle in article 3(a) of the Convention includes the freedom to take risks and make mistakes on an equal basis with others. In its General Comment No. 1, the Committee stated that decisions about medical and psychiatric treatment must be based on the free and informed consent of the person concerned and respect the person’s autonomy, will and preferences.  Deprivation of liberty on the basis of actual or perceived impairment or health conditions in mental health institutions which deprives persons with disabilities of their legal capacity also amounts to a violation of article 12 of the Convention.” (11: #13-15)

The laws that apply to people in the rest of society regarding acute situations and in the criminal justice system, must apply to people with disabilities too in non-discriminatory ways. The CRPD’s demand for absolute prohibition of forced treatment and involuntary commitment means that it applies both in criminal justice- and civil contexts. (11: #14, 16, 20-21, also 10-12). For people with psychosocial disabilities who come in contact with the criminal justice system, necessary support must be provided to ensure the right to legal capacity, equal recognition before the law and a fair trial. Forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment can not be applied as sanctions for criminal acts and/or for the prevention of such.

Replacing substituted decision-making with supported decision-making

Substituted decision making must be replaced by supported decision making systems. Giving access to supported decision-making for some but still maintaining substitute decision-making regimes, is not sufficient to comply with article 12 of the CRPD (6: #28). From General Comment No 1:

A supported decision-making regime comprises various support options which give primacy to a person’s will and preferences and respect human rights norms. It should provide protection for all rights, including those related to autonomy (right to legal capacity, right to equal recognition before the law, right to choose where to live, etc.) and rights related to freedom from abuse and ill-treatment (…).” (6: #29)

Some who agree with the CRPD in that diagnostic criteria for coercion should be abolished, still seem fine with the idea that ‘mental incapacity’ can be used as criteria for psychiatric coercion. This is not in line with the CRPD, which neither accepts disability criteria for the deprivation of freedom nor psychiatric coercion. Here is a relevant point to note, from General Comments No1:  “The provision of support to exercise legal capacity should not hinge on mental capacity assessments; new, non-discriminatory indicators of support needs are required in the provision of support to exercise legal capacity.” (6:#29 i)

A summary of my own experiences from forced psychiatry 

I was not suicidal when psychiatry put me under the Mental Health Act and decided I should get forced neuroleptic “treatment”. I had never been suicidal. The former mentioned treatment criterion is the criterion that was used on me.  Forced psychiatry, with its locking me up, restraining me, drugging me, and keeping me on CTO when discharged from hospital, certainly did not make my life better  in any way– everything became indescribably much worse. I experienced forced psychiatry as one long punishment for having mental problems. After having been on neuroleptics for a while, my cognition, my intellectual abilities, were severely affected and reduced – and so was my language: from usually having a rich vocabulary I could just utter short, simple sentences. My body became rigid and lost its fine motor skills so I couldn’t dance anymore. A period I also had akathisia, a terrible restlessness which made me walk endlessly back and forth, back and forth. I’m trained a professional dancer and having my dance abilities medicated away was a big loss in itself. The medication took away my vitality, my sensitivity. My emotions were numbed. My personality faded away.  Then a severe depression set in – just a complete state of hopelessness – and for the first time in my life I became suicidal. Again and again I said to the staff, psychologists, doctors: – I can not be on meds. I tried to have them understand that the neuroleptics were destroying me and my life.  They communicated to me that they thought I was being fussy. They were a big wall that just would not listen to me. Respectlessly enough, some even told me –yes, told me -that I was doing better. The doctors said I would need to be on meds for the rest of my life. That was a message which just manifested the complete hopeless situation. From entering psychiatry, indeed having mental problems, but being a vital, thoughtful, and expressive person who was dancing several times a week, psychiatry  had coercively medicated me away from myself and iatrogenically made me severely depressed and suicidal . In effect a slow form of forced euthanasia . One day, while on CTO, shortly after a new forced injection in the buttocks with those horrible meds, I did a dramatic suicide attempt. I was put back into the hospital. I am very glad that I survived. Because unbelievably, a couple of months later, I was told that someone had made a bureaucratic mistake: the coercion documents had not been renewed in time, so there was nothing they could do to hold me back. Of course they would recommend me to stick to the treatment (Ha!) and not leave the hospital too fast (Ha!). I left the hospital the same day. It took me about half a year to become myself again, to be able to think and speak freely, to get my sensitivity, my emotions back, to dance, to feel human again, to feel life. I have never been in a mental hospital since then. I have never had another dose of neuroleptics. And I have never been suicidal again.  More than a decade later, I am still traumatized by my experiences from forced psychiatry.


I am very thankful to the CRPD committee for their important work. The CRPD represents a paradigm shift, and there is clearly a resistance out there to accept the full width and depth of the convention. That human rights and non-discrimination applies equally to people with disabilities should not be seen as a radical message in 2016, but sadly, it still is. Societies with their leaders need to realize that systematic, legalized discrimination and abuse of people with disabilities is based on tradition and habitual ways of thinking –not on human rights. That something has been brutally wrong for a long time does not make it more right. Forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment need to be absolutely prohibited.

Thank you for your attention.


1) MDAC:  Legal Opinion on Norway’s Declaration/Reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Tor Levin Hofgaard:  Bryter vi menneskerettighetene?


In Norwegian: Equality and anti-discrimination ombud (LDO): CRPD report to Norwegian authorities 2013 – summary–2013/crpd_report_sammendrag_pdf_ok.pdf


Anne Grethe Erlandsen: Vi bryter ikke menneskerettighetene


In Norwegian: LDO’s report to the CRPD committee 2015 – a supplement to Norway’s 1st periodic report


Link to download of CRPD General Comment No 1:


In Norwegian: Equality and anti-discrimination ombud (LDO): CRPD report to Norwegian authorities 2013- full version–2013/rapportcrpd_psykiskhelsevern_pdf.pdf


NOU 2011: 9. Økt selvbestemmelse og rettssikkerhet — Balansegangen mellom selvbestemmelsesrett og omsorgsansvar i psykisk helsevern. 5. Kunnskapsstatus med hensyn til skadevirkninger av tvang i det psykiske helsevernet. Utredning for Paulsrud-utvalget


Hege Orefellen: Torture and other ill-treatment in psychiatry – urgent need for effective remedies, redress and guarantees of non-repetition


CRPD 13: WNUSP side event on Article 15: Its Potential to End Impunity for Torture in Psychiatry


Link to guidelines on article 14 of the CRPD under “Recent Events and Developments”


Norwegian Mental Health Act translated to English


CRPD Convention


Via Mad in America / ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ (Robert Whitaker):  List of long-term outcomes literature for antipsychotics


Lex Wunderink et al: Recovery in Remitted First-Episode Psychosis at 7 Years of Follow-up of an Early Dose Reduction/Discontinuation or Maintenance Treatment Strategy. Long-term Follow-up of a 2-Year Randomized Clinical Trial


Bruk av tvang i psykisk helsevern for voksne i 2014 (report on the use of coercion in psychiatry in Norway 2014)


Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Forced Treatment and Involuntary Commitment


RxISK Guide: Antipsychotics for Prescribers: What are the risks?


Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


By Peter C. Gøtzsche, Professor, MD, DrMedSci, MSc

8 March 2016

Forced treatment in psychiatry as we currently know it cannot be defended, neither on ethical, legal or scientific grounds. Ethically, the patients’ values and preferences are not being respected, although the fundamental human right to equal recognition before the law applies to everyone, also to people with mental disorders.1,2 This is clear from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,2 which virtually all countries have ratified. However, we ignore the convention and continue to discriminate against people with mental problems.

Please consider this. Doctors cannot give patients insulin without their permission, not even if the lack of insulin might kill them, and they cannot give adult Jehova’s witnesses blood transfusions without their permission, even if the lack of blood might kill them. The only drugs that can be given without permission are also some of the most dangerous ones. Psychiatric drugs are the third major killer after heart disease and cancer, with an estimated 539,000 deaths in the United States and European Union combined.1,3 Only soldiers at war and psychiatric patients are forced to run risks against their will that might kill or cripple them. But there is an important, ethically relevant difference: soldiers have chosen to become soldiers; psychiatric patients have not chosen to become psychiatric patients.

In many countries, a person considered insane, or in a similar condition, can be admitted to a psychiatric ward on an involuntary basis if the prospect of cure or substantial and significant improvement of the condition would otherwise be significantly impaired. After having studied the science carefully over many years, I have come to doubt that this is ever the case.1

Forced treatment most commonly involves the use of antipsychotics, but they are very poor drugs. The placebo controlled trials are seriously flawed because they have not been adequately blinded.1 Antipsychotics have many and conspicuous side effects, so most doctors and patients can guess whether an active drug or a placebo is given, which exaggerates the measured effect markedly.1 Furthermore, almost all patients in these trials were already in treatment with an antipsychotic drug before they were randomised after a short wash-out period. This cold turkey design means that abstinence symptoms – which may include psychosis – are being inflicted on patients who get placebo. Even helped by these formidable biases in the trials, the outcome is poor. The minimal improvement on the Clinical Global Impressions Ratings corresponds to about 15 points on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale,4 but what was obtained in recent placebo controlled trials in submissions to the FDA for newer antipsychotics was only 6 points,5 although it is easy for scores to improve quite a bit if people are knocked down by a tranquilliser and express their abnormal ideas less frequently. Thus, the FDA has approved newer antipsychotic drugs whose effect is far below what is clinically relevant. Old drugs are similarly ineffective.1

Whereas the benefits of antipsychotics are doubtful, the harms are certain, and the cold turkey design is lethal. One in every 145 patients who entered the trials for risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and sertindole died, but none of these deaths were mentioned in the scientific literature.6 Therefore, if we want to find out how lethal these drugs are, we should look at trials in dementia, as such patients are not so likely to have received antipsychotics before randomisation. Randomised trials in dementia shows that for every 100 patients treated for a few weeks, one is killed by an antipsychotic, compared to those treated with placebo.7 It could even be worse than this because deaths are seriously underreported in published trials. For example, a review found that only 19 of 50 deaths and 1 of 9 suicides on olanzapine described in trial summaries on websites also appeared in journal articles.8

There is no evidence that mechanical restraint in belts or seclusion has any benefits, but these treatments can also be lethal. Violence breeds violence and when psychotic patients become violent, it is very often because of the inhumane treatment they receive. It may also be because they get abstinence symptoms when they drop a few doses of an antipsychotic because they are very unpleasant to take, which can include akathisia – an extreme form of restlessness that predisposes to both suicide and homicide.1

Electroshock is also forced on people although it doesn’t seem to work for schizophrenia and although the effect on depression is temporary, which often results in a series of shocks.1 About half of the patients get memory loss1 and the more treatments they get, the more severe is the memory loss.9 Some psychiatrists claim that electroshock can be lifesaving but this has never been documented whereas we know that electroshock may kill people: about 1 in 1000 patients die.10

Another reason for using force is if patients present an obvious and substantial danger to themselves or others, in which case they can be involuntarily admitted. However, this is not necessary. The National Italian Mental Health Law specifies that a reason for involuntary treatment cannot be that the patient is dangerous. This is a matter for the police, as it also is in Iceland, and patients in Italy can decide that they want treatment elsewhere.1

Forced treatment does more harm than good and it kills many people, not only because of the direct harms of the drugs but also because of suicide. A register study of 2,429 suicides showed that the closer the contact with psychiatric staff – which often involves forced treatment – the worse the outcome.11 Compared to people who had not received any psychiatric treatment in the preceding year, the adjusted rate ratio for suicide was 44 (95% confidence interval 36 to 54) for people who had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. These patients would be expected to be at greater risk of suicide than other patients (confounding by indication), but most of the potential biases in the study favoured the null hypothesis of there being no relationship. An accompanying editorial noted that some of the people who commit suicide during or after an admission to hospital do so because of conditions inherent in that hospitalisation.12

I fully admit that some patients are very difficult to treat optimally without using force. But it seems that, with adequate leadership and training of staff in de-escalation techniques, it is possible to practice psychiatry without using force.1,13,14 In Iceland, belts have not been used since 1932, and there are psychiatrists all over the world who have dealt with deeply disturbed patients for their entire career without ever having used antipsychotics, ECT or force.1

I believe we have to abolish laws of forced admission and treatment, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.2 Abandoning using force will be harmful to some patients but it will benefit vastly many more. We will need to work out how we may best deal with those patients who would have benefited from forced treatment in a future where force is no longer allowed.

Peter C Gøtzsche graduated as a Master of Science in biology and chemistry in 1974 and as a physician 1984. He is a specialist in internal medicine. Co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre the same year. He became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen.


1 Gøtzsche PC. Deadly psychiatry and organised denial. Copenhagen: People’s Press; 2015.

2 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. General comment No. 1 2014 May 19. (accessed 1 April 2015).

3 Gøtzsche PC. Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good? BMJ 2015;350:h2435.

4 Leucht S, Kane JM, Etschel E, et al. Linking the PANSS, BPRS, and CGI: clinical implications. Neuropsychopharmacology 2006;31:2318-25.

5 Khin NA, Chen YF, Yang Y, et al. Exploratory analyses of efficacy data from schizophrenia trials in support of new drug applications submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration. J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73:856–64.

6 Whitaker R. Mad in America. Cambridge: Perseus Books Group; 2002.
7 Schneider LS, Dagerman KS, Insel P. Risk of death with atypical antipsychotic drug treatment for dementia: meta-

analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. JAMA 2005;294:1934–43.

8 Hughes S, Cohen D, Jaggi R. Differences in reporting serious adverse events in industry sponsored clinical trial registries and journal articles on antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 2014;4:e005535.

9 Sackeim HA, Prudic J, Fuller R, et al. The cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy in community settings. Neuropsychopharmacology 2007;32:244-54.

10 Read J, Bentall R. The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: a literature review. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 2010 Oct-Dec;19:333-47.

11 Hjorthøj CR, Madsen T, Agerbo E, et al. Risk of suicide according to level of psychiatric treatment: a nationwide nested case-control study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2014;49:1357–65.

12 Large MM, Ryan CJ. Disturbing findings about the risk of suicide and psychiatric hospitals. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2014;49:1353–5.

13 Fiorillo A, De Rosa C, Del Vecchio V, et al. How to improve clinical practice on involuntary hospital admissions of psychiatric patients: Suggestions from the EUNOMIA study. Eur Psychiat 2011;26:201-7.

14 Scanlan JN. Interventions to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in inpatient psychiatric settings: what we know so far, a review of the literature. Int J Soc Psychiat 2010;56:412–23.