The position of psychiatrists has been central to the mobilisation of the medical profession as a whole on human rights issues. Here again, the pivot for psychiatrists’ involvement has been the question of their corporate responsibility for safeguarding professional ethics. The debate arose over repeated allegations of the abuse of psychiatric institutions and techniques for political ends of control and punishment. Such allegations have emanated from a number of countries, but to date only in the Soviet Union has the practice of forcible psychiatric internment of dissenters been extensively documented.1 Such well-publicised cases as those of Major Pyotr Grigorenko, Leonid Plushch and Vladimir Bukovsky have brought home these issues, often in graphic detail, to the public at large. And quite apart from any humanitarian involvement, they raised questions about areas of psychiatric ethics which were of direct concern to all members of the profession: the independence of psychiatrists from external authority, the social expediency of diagnosis, the potential abuse of dangerous drugs and isolation techniques, and the understanding of what constitutes ‘treatment’ in politically-charged circumstances.
KeywordsRoyal College Professional Ethic Psychiatric Institution British Psychological Society Psychiatric Profession
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