Psychiatrist and iconoclast Thomas Szasz takes part in a hard-hitting interview on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind where he shows that at the age of 89 he’s lost none of his fire which has raged through psychiatry for almost 50 years.
It’s a two part interview with the second appearing next week and it’s classic Szasz.
He’s an important thinker because he relentlessly attacks the conceptual foundations of psychiatry, the definitions which usually can’t be empirically tested because they’re philosophical issues – in other words, the assumptions we need to make about the world before we can start measuring anything.
Szasz comes from a classical liberal perspective, citing the rights and responsibilities of the individual as primary in any social decision-making.
As psychiatry is involved in changing behaviour, detaining individuals against their will, and discharging responsibility for serious crimes through the insanity defence – all based on what Szasz argues is a flawed concept of ‘mental illness’ – he fundamentally opposes much of the psychiatric system.
He’s always fascinating to read or listen to as there are always ‘that man is a genius’ and ‘how can he be so stupid?’ moments following closely together. Of course, not everyone agrees on which are which.
The presenter, Natasha Mitchell, does a fantastic job of pressing hard questions and doesn’t shy away from tackling accusations of anti-psychiatry, medical irresponsibility and collusion with scientology (next week).