Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Punative Psychiatry" Returning to Russia?

The Soviets had a tendency to put dissidents into asylums (along with the gulags and wherever else, including the dirt), which I can only imagine was an unpleasant experience. That practice was supposed to have died along with the Soviet Union, but this story suggests that it might be returning.

Some quotes:

But the treatment of one critic of the Putin Government has raised fears among Russia's human rights community that the Kremlin is preparing to incarcerate a new generation of dissidents in asylums.

Naked and with her hands and feet bound to the corners of a metal bed, Larisa Arap eyed with quiet defiance the doctors who wanted to declare her mad.

It was a futile gesture. The men in white coats standing over her were bitter adversaries. Enraged by the allegations that she had levelled against them, they also knew that, as an open Kremlin critic, the state would do little to help her.

And it's apparently not just a change in practices, but rathe a change in Russian law that makes it possible:

Mrs Arap's allegations come as no surprise to those who have followed psychiatry in Russia in recent years. In 2001, the law was quietly changed to remove the rights of sectioned patients to seek an independent assessment. And dozens of incidents suggest Russia's psychiatric system is rapidly becoming as unsavoury as it was in Soviet times.

Andrei Fedorovich, for example, was held in a clinic for 43 days last northern autumn after his neighbours, who had powerful connections in the Moscow police force, reported him as being mad, in an attempt to seize his apartment.

Alexei Shuralyov tells a similar story — although this time his antagonists came from the FSB, the feared domestic spy agency that employed his wife. Such stories are common.

Read the whole thing.

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