PSYCHIATRIC SLAVERY: The Dilemmas of Involuntary Psychiatry as Exemplified by the Case of Kenneth Donaldson by Thomas S. Szasz

PSYCHIATRIC SLAVERY: The Dilemmas of Involuntary Psychiatry as Exemplified by the Case of Kenneth Donaldson

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kenneth Donaldson was ""put away"" by his father in 1957 and has been through a lot since. Fifteen years of appalling neglect in mental institutions, an extended lawsuit against his Florida State Hospital keeper (with a semi-successful Supreme Court outcome in 1975), and now--an analysis of his case by the crusading author of The Myth of Mental Illness. Szasz proclaims himself inimicus curiae, condemns the courts, the ACLU, and Donaldson's lawyers as the accomplices of the ""slave masters"" (read: psychiatrists), and promises to clear the air. Unquestionably, the myriad cross-arguments and slipshod judicial reasoning in the Donaldson case have generated confusion, and the best chapter here catalogues the misleading and conflicting reports of the '75 decision in the major dailies and weeklies. But Szasz doesn't do much better. True, his central thesis comes through lucidly enough: Donaldson claimed a violation of his constitutional ""right to treatment"" while Szasz insists that the only question is whether ""mad doctors"" have the right to treat involuntary ""so-called"" mental patients at all. (""Everyone who is committed is. . . committed unjustly."") In summarizing the facts and paraphrasing court opinions, however, he's far less cogent and lacking his customary lingual elegance. Important details are omitted, and frequent digressions into personal attack (watch out, Judge Bazelon) and hysterical analogy keep fragmenting the barely logical presentation. Legal complexity and Szaszian rhetoric are a muddy mix, and only those readers already conversant with the Donaldson dossier should wade into this sketchy bog to retrieve the insights that do lurk there.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan