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.


“All for the Best of the Patient” – Dorrit Cato Christensen


I am sharing my story in support of the CRPD campaign: Absolute Prohibition of Involuntary Commitment and Forced Treatment. This campaign is of utmost importance. Treatment and commitment carried out by force is torture, and must be abolished immediately. For psychiatric ‘help’ to happen by force is a paradox and makes absolutely no sense. It can destroy people’s personality and self-confidence. It can lead, in the long run, to physical and psychological disability – and unfortunately, as I know only too well, it can also result in sudden death.

I have been in very close contact with the Danish psychiatric treatment system. My dear daughter Luise got caught in this ‘helping system’ by mistake, but she didn’t make it out alive. I’m sad to say I later discovered that the way Luise was treated was more the rule than the exception. After writing a book about Luise and the psychiatric system, Dear Luise: A story of power and powerlessness in Denmark’s psychiatric care system, people from all corners of the world contacted me to say that Luise’s story could have been their own or their loved one’s story.

As a leader of the Danish association Dead in Psychiatric Care, I am constantly in contact with desperate people who have been committed or who have experienced some kind of forced treatment. They all talk about the tremendous amount of psychotropics they are forced to take. They feel powerless when they complain about horrible side effects and are told in response that the disease has developed and the dose has to be increased. I hear about the smug certainty of some mental health professionals, both doctors and caregivers, and the concomitant dehumanization of their patients through indifference, harassment, coercion and the use of force. Through my experience with my dear Luise, I saw this cold and dangerous treatment world.

Luise died in 2005 when her body and mind could not tolerate the inhumane treatment anymore. After her death, I got access to the hospital records. Reading Luise’s 600-page chart was a wretched experience. It presents an impersonal diagnosis, with signs of coercion, both direct and indirect, permeating the stack of chart notes. Luise wanted me to help her, but the psychiatrists didn’t want to hear my opinion. They believed that they knew better. So I watched powerlessly as Luise deteriorated both physically and psychologically. I witnessed arrogance and dishonesty, repeated misdiagnoses, professional collusion, missing official records, and falsified hospital charts.

Luise started down this path in 1992 at the age of 18. She was supposed to have a psychiatric examination without medication, however, she was heavily medicated from the very minute she set foot in the hospital. After eight days she was close to dying from medication poisoning. That was in August, 1992. In October of 1992, she was still deeply marked by the poisoning. I have no doubt that she suffered brain damage from this. Instead of treating this injury, the psychiatrists wanted to give her more medication.

Luise said no. She argued that the psychotropics had made her very ill, which was true. The psychiatrists interpreted her arguments as a sign of her illness. Shortly after that, the mandated medication began – administered by a syringe – along with the periodic use of belt restraints.

She fought for two months against the terrible drugs. The staff always won this battle, of course. They used manpower, the belt, and the syringe.

At a certain point, Luise gave up fighting. She was broken. My heart bleeds when I read the chart from November 11, 1992. Two and a half months after she first contacted the psychiatric ward for help, her chart reads, “Today the patient offers no physical resistance but is anxious about being medicated and holds hands (the psychiatrists), and afterward, she is somewhat tearful.”

After reading the chart notes, I realize that coercion, both overt and covert, plays a much greater role in treatment than I had ever imagined.

Initially, Luise fought back, which resulted in long-term coercive measures. I can see that eventually just the threat of forcible measures was enough to make Luise give in. It’s the same story I hear from many of the people who contact me. At a certain point, everybody gives up on fighting back.

July 14th, 2005, around four p.m., was the last time Luise experienced this act of cruelty. She was involuntarily committed to a closed psychiatric ward. She had a psychotropic injected. That was on top of the four other antipsychotics she was already on. On the 15th, during the night, she was walking around as usual (akathisia). A bump was heard. At 5 a.m. Luise was declared dead. The doctor’s attempt at resuscitation was in vain. My Luise was gone forever.

The hospital chart, written not many hours before she died: “The patient was persuaded today to take prolonged-release medicine.” Then a few words about the dose and about how she was feeling well and could be moved to an open ward the next day.

Luise did not want me visiting her, that afternoon of July 14. This was unusual, so I called the ward and was told that she was doing fine and she just did not want to see me. I asked if there had been a change in her medication ― I dreaded the injection the doctor had talked about, which I said would be Luise’s death. The woman on the telephone answered that, for the best of Luise, they had decided to inform me about any medication changes only once a week, so I could find out about this the following Thursday. That’s when I really got scared. Just a few words in the chart about such an important decision as giving a new drug by way of depot injection.

Medical law requires that a patient’s chart must record what information the patient has received about a new product, and what the patient has articulated about it. Nothing was noted in her chart. No informed consent. Luise would have done anything to avoid the syringe. So the sentence “The patient was persuaded today to take prolonged-release medicine” is ominous. I’m sure she fought against getting this injection, as she had earlier been about to die from injection with psychotropics.

The autopsy also revealed marks around her body, which the coroner could not explain. I have no doubt that these marks stem from the staff holding Luise down by force when she fought against getting the drug by syringe ― the injection she died from, eight to twelve hours later.

Mental health problems are not a deadly disease. Yet many people, far too many people, still die in psychiatric care. They die because they are treated with far too high doses of psychotropics, often given against their will and by force. Luise’s tragedy is far from unique in Denmark ― or indeed any other ‘advanced’ industrialized country.

After Luise’s death, I sent a complaint to the National Agency for Patient Rights and Complaints, and to The Patient Insurance Association. My complaint’s headline was “Death from drug poisoning.” I named the four different drugs she had been on, which all together was a huge cocktail.

According to these agencies, Luise received the highest standard of specialist treatment. They wrote:

The antipsychotic medication treatment has complied with the best professional standards. That the outcome has not been satisfactory is due to the nature of the condition and the circumstances that the profession’s knowledge and treatment options are limited.

As stated, I believe that the risk inherent in the medication treatment must be weighed against the sufferings Luise H.C. would have undergone without treatment.

It is incomprehensible that Luise’s treatment was judged up to standard, when in fact they administered psychoactive pharmaceuticals at three times the highest recommended dose. There was no informed consent of this polypharmacy, and nothing written in the hospital records about her treatment in the last days of Luise’s life.

According to the UN Convention, everybody should be equal under the law. So why is this equality not carried out in practice? And why is nobody held responsible when the law is violated? Will we accept a society where far too many people die from an illness that is not deadly? Can we accept a society where forced treatment is often the cause of severe disability?

My answer is NO. Please, STOP forced treatment. Why on earth are psychiatrists so keen on keeping up such dangerous and degrading treatment? I want to tell them: Please get down from your ivory tower. Down to the real world, with real people, and stop saying that this kind of treatment is “for the best of the patient.”

Dorrit Cato ChristensenDorrit Cato Christensen is an author, lecturer and chairman of the Danish association Dead in Psychiatric Care. She devoted her life to helping people who are caught in the psychiatric system after her daughter’s fatal contact with the Danish mental health system. She has chronicled her daughter’s story in her talks and in her book  “Dear Luise: A story of power and powerlessness in Denmark’s psychiatric care system”

Le témoignage d’Agnès: traitements dégradants, traitements forcés en France.

En violation de l’article 16 de l’ONU, les personnes présentant un handicap psychiques subissent des traitement dégradants qui bafouent  toute dignité humaine.

Voici mon témoignage :

J’ai été hospitalisée 2 fois dernièrement à l’hôpital psychiatrique relevant de mon département
En juin, il m’ont placée dans une chambre d’isolation et m’ont attachée pendant 2 jours. J’étais allée aux toilettes le dimanche à midi et j’ai été hospitalisée vers 17heures. Le lendemain toujours attachée, j’ai crié que j’avais envie de faire pipi. Ne voyant personne venir, j’ai fini à bout par uriner dans mon lit. Des infirmiers sont venus. Ils m’ont déshabillée de force et m’ont écarté les jambes pour me placer une couche pour incontinents. Ils m’ont arraché la veste de pyjama et essayé d’ôter mon soutien-gorge, le tout avec une violence inouïe.Aujourd’hui encore j’ai un profond sentiment de honte tant je  ressens cet acte comme un viol de mon intimité. En y pensant ma gorge se noue et mon estomac se serre.

La 2éme fois en septembre cette fois, j’ai été placée en chambre d’isolement. Elle était pourvue de toilettes verrouillées de l’extérieur ce qui vous contraint à aller uriner dans un seau hygiénique sous “l’œil bienveillant” d’une caméra de vidéo-surveillance. Enfermée ainsi pendant 3 jours et 4 nuits, vous perdez la notion jour et nuit. Quand, vous sortez enfin, vous voilà docile comme un mouton prêt à quémander ou presque les médicaments que ‘l’on vous a prescrits et que l’on vous donne à heure fixe 3 fois par jour.

Tels sont les méthodes chocs employées par l’hôpital psychiatrique de mon département pour mâter les plus récalcitrants… Comment conserver l’estime de soi et se réintégrer socialement quand on a subi de tels traitements et qu’on ne peut communiquer sur ce qu’on a vécu ?

Je vis dans le sud de la France, pays des droits de l’Homme qui a pour devise “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”. J’ai une reconnaissance de handicap à 80%.

Je veux que vous apportiez mon témoignage pour que cessent ces méthodes indignes pour l’être humain et indignes du XXIe siècle.

Je voudrais dire aussi que lorsque j’ai été attachée, ils ont serré si fort les liens de contention que j’étais dans l’incapacité de bouger et que même sans bouger, ma cheville a été entaillée.

J’ajouterai que dans ce même hôpital, on utilise des mesures vexatoires à l’encontre des patients; on leur ôte toute dignité en les contraignant à rester en pyjama devant les autres patients pendant au moins 5 jours, le plus souvent une semaine, voire plus. C’est le médecin qui décide de la levée de la contrainte.

Enfin, il faut savoir que dans notre pays, les malades psychiatriques internés relèvent du “juge des liberté et de la détention” qui est aussi le juge des prisonniers de droit commun, alors que la plupart d’entre nous, n’avons commis aucun délit. Au bout de 10 jours environ, vous êtes admis à comparaître devant lui. Comment se défendre quand assommée de médicaments, on a peine à avoir les idées claires, à aligner ces phrases à trouver ses mots ? En fait le but de cette audience est avant tout de démontrer que vous n’êtes pas coopérant avec les soins ce qui justifie la poursuite de votre internement dans l’établissement.

Je pourrais aussi parler des effets qu’ont eu sur moi les neuroleptiques. Lorsqu’on me les a administrés pour la première fois, j’étais revenue à la réalité après 3 jours de bouffée délirante aiguë. Depuis chaque fois que je les arrête ou qu’on les baisse trop brusquement  ou qu’on me prescrit un traitement inadapté, je rechute.

On me disait brillante et aujourd’hui, je ne suis plus que l’ombre de moi-même: j’ai perdu mon affect, tout sens critique toute capacité d’analyser, toute intelligence émotionnelle et mes facultés cognitives. Comme ce sont les émotions qui fixent la mémoire, je suis vide de souvenirs depuis 17 ans. J’ai de grands trous noirs concernant des événements que j’ai vécus ce qui est terriblement angoissant. J’ai perdu toute curiosité intellectuelle, tout intérêt pour les choses y compris pour le domaine pour lequel j’ai effectué des études universitaires. Je subis la vie sans la vivre vraiment. Je suis une morte-vivante. A certains moments j’ai même été zombifiée. C’est ainsi qu’on m’a imposée une contrainte de soins après ma sortie de l’hôpital (loi qui a été généralisée en France par Nicolas Sarkozy en  2011) : tous les 14 jours, on m’administrait une piqûre de 50 mg de risperdal constat et les infirmiers passaient tous les soirs à mon domicile pour me contraindre à prendre un comprimé de 4 mg de risperdal (rispéridone). Incapable de me concentrer et souffrant de terribles anxiétés, j’ai été contrainte de prendre un travail à mi-temps.

Vous pouvez publier mon témoignage. J’ose espérer qu’il va servir à mettre fin à certaines méthodes utilisée par la psychiatrie moderne. Je sais qu’un jour, des gens s’étonneront de l’emploi de méthodes si barbares et  que peut-être dans un proche avenir des individus, avec l’avancée des connaissances, traîneront en justice les médecins et les industries pharmaceutiques, responsables de leur état.

C’est paradoxal. Les “psychiatres” comme leur nom l’indique devraient soigner la psychée (l’âme). Or justement en tant qu’handicapés psychiques, nous ne sommes pas traités comme des êtres humains par certains personnels soignants et cela dans l’indifférence presque totale de la société qui cautionne de tels traitements dégradants qui vont pourtant à l’encontre de la Convention de l’ONU contre la torture et les traitements dégradants. : il y a les végétaux, les animaux, les malades mentaux et l’espèce humaine. Que s’imaginent-ils? Que parce que nous perdons la raison, nous perdons notre conscience, que nous n’avons pas d’âme et que notre ressenti est celui d’un animal ? En fait je pense qu’ils ne font pas ça non parce que nous constituons un danger pour eux et pour les patients mais parce qu’ils croient qu’en nous traitant comme ça, cela nous dissuadera d’arrêter les médicament. Qu’ils se détrompent! Nous les arrêterons encore et encore pour leur prouver le contraire et nous prouver aussi à nous-même que nous sommes des êtres humains.

J’en ai moi-même fait l’expérience : en 2013, j’ai été hospitalisée une nouvelle fois à l’hôpital psychiatrique, après avoir arrêté mes médicaments,. Je n’y ai pas subi de sévices et cette fois là, et je suis tombée sur une psychiatre humaine qui m’a bien expliqué qu’il fallait que je sois stabilisée pendant 4 ans avant de pouvoir essayer (avec l’aide d’un médecin) d’arrêter les neuroleptiques. Je n’ai  plus jamais arrêté mes médicaments. J’ai rechuté en 2015 (j’avais des comprimés à cette époque que je prenais toute seule) peut-être parce que mes doses étaient trop basses. A l’hôpital sous la pression de ma famille, le psychiatre a instauré une injection retard d’abilify et comme ce traitement est destiné aux personnes atteintes de schizophrénie, j’ai rechuté une 2e fois, un mois après.

Aujourd’hui, j’aimerais bien revenir aux comprimés et être considéré comme un être humain responsable. Les injections retard sont dégradantes..Elles ne permettent pas de nuancer et d’ajuster au plus près les médicaments. Sans compter que leurs effets à long terme ne sont pas connus. Que se passerait-il en cas de syndrome malin des neuroleptiques ? C’est une question que je me pose. Malheureusement les psychiatres abusent de ces injections les généralisent et les banalisent sans mesurer les effets qu’elles engendrent. Quant à moi, je n’ arrêterai plus mon traitement car avec ce que j’ai lu là-dessus, j’ai bien compris que les neuroleptiques ou antipsychotiques sont comme une drogue et doivent être arrêtés très progressivement pendant une longue période avec des paliers de stabilisation. Les arrêter brutalement c’est le meilleur moyen de basculer dans la folie. Il m’aura fallu 17 ans pour que je comprenne tout ça, alors que si on m’avait expliqué cela dès le début(ou presque) en me considérant comme un adulte à part entière, un malade comme les autres, doué de conscience et de raison,  je n’en serais sûrement pas à ma 10ème ou 11éme hospitalisation.


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.


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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.

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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.