Thomas Stephen Szasz (April 15, 1920 – September 8, 2012) was a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and academic. He served for most of his career as professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York. A distinguished lifetime fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a life member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, he was best known as a social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, of what he saw as the social control aims of medicine in modern society, and scientism. Szasz considered diagnoses, based on the biomedical model, to be nonscientific due to the lack of scientific tests or objective material for mental illness. His books The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) and The Manufacture of Madness (1970) set out some of the arguments most associated with him. After publication, The Myth of Mental Illness later became a mantra for those involved in the anti-psychiatry movement.
Szasz argued throughout his career that mental illness is a metaphor for human problems in living, and that mental illnesses are not real in the sense that cancers are real. Except for a few identifiable brain diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying or falsifying DSM diagnoses", i.e., there are no objective methods for detecting the presence or absence of mental illness. Szasz maintained throughout his career that he was not anti-psychiatry but was rather anti-coercive psychiatry. He was a staunch opponent of civil commitment and involuntary psychiatric treatment but believed in, and practiced, psychotherapy and psychiatry between consenting adults.
His views on special treatment followed from libertarian roots, based on the principles that each person has the right to bodily and mental self-ownership and the right to be free from violence from others, although he criticized the "Free World" as well as the communist states for their use of psychiatry. He believed that suicide, the practice of medicine, the use and sale of drugs and sexual relations should be private, contractual, and legal...
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