Thomas Stephen Szasz, 1920 – 2012

“I am probably the only psychiatrist in the world whose hands are clean,” Szasz told the newspaper. “I have never committed anyone. I have never given electric shock. I have never, ever, given drugs to a mental patient.”

~Update: Thomas Szasz, Manlius psychiatrist who disputed existence of mental illness, dies at 92, John Mariani, Wednesday, September 12, 2012, The Post-Standard, Saracuse, New York.

Saturday Morning I saw the close of the historic 30th Anniversary Nation Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) conference in Cincinnati. The grand finale of this event was a rousing and invigorating talk by Bruce Levine lambasting corruption in psychiatry, and in his own profession of psychology. He was, in fact, calling for the abolition of the profession of psychiatry on the grounds of the extent to which it was contaminated by that corruption.

Sometime during the evening of the same day, a giant among giants as far as critics of mainstream psychiatry go, Dr. Thomas Stephen Szasz, passed away.

I flew back to Florida from Ohio on Sunday, September the 9th.

On the afternoon of Monday September 10th, during a teleconference, on a facebook page I ran across a report of Dr. Szasz passing. I immediately made mention of this comment to the people who were taking part in this teleconference. We did a quick Google news search, and decided it was probably nothing more than an internet rumor. There was nothing in Google news to indicate that he had died. Dr. Szasz, although 92 years of age, had just last year presented to an enthusiastic crowd at the International Society for Ethical Psychology & Psychiatry (ISEPP) conference in Los Angeles.

Tuesday I had more than enough reliable reports to conclude that he had expired. First there was an announcement on the ISEPP facebook page, and a link was provided to the article that sparked that announcement.

The New York Times on Wednesday reported on his death with an article that quoted E. Fuller Torrey and Edward Shorter, by no means friends of, nor friendly to, Dr. Szasz and his ideas. Vera Hassner Sharav, president of the Human Alliance For Human Research Protection, uses the occasion to voice his differences in opinion from those expressed by Dr. Szasz rather than emphasizing any places where they might have been in agreement.

Usually when you are remembering a person, you turn to his friends rather than his enemies. Although it is curious that the New York Times should turn to Dr. Szasz’s enemies when remembering him, certainly Dr. Szasz’s legacy neither begins nor ends with the New York Times.

I think it goes without saying that some segments of the mainstream mass media are as corrupt as the psychiatrists they quote. A much more just and balanced appreciation, The Passing of Thomas Szasz, can be found in The New American.

Dr. Szasz’s distinctive voice, and his singular presence, will be sorely missed by many.

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