Sufficient Scruples

Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.

September 12, 2012

Thomas Szasz: Opposition Whip

by @ 9:30 AM. Filed under Autonomy, BioLibri, General, Healthcare Politics, Provider Roles

Thomas Szasz, MD, has died at the age of 92.

Szasz made a career as the gadfly of psychiatry, excoriating its role as enforcer of political and social orthodoxy and questioning mental illness as a category of disease. He was driven by both a lacerating exactitude of mind regarding the theories of disease and healthcare, and by the libertarian political ideology which caused him to see all forms of behavior modification as an encroachment on freedom. By tireless effort he established a solid, but not popular, beachhead position against mainstream psychiatry and its role in the legal/medical complex.

I was not a close student of Szasz, but, though I did not admire his politics, I greatly admired his insistence on clear thinking and on holding medicine accountable for what it does to people. His death is a loss to a profession that needed his intelligence and keen critical eye.

A short overview of his career and ideology can be found here; a more detailed, and fascinating, report of Szasz’s early experiences in psychiatry and the development of his ideology is here. My own review of one of his books can be found here.

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