AN UNUSUAL POWER: The dangerous roots of psychiatry

This paper is the latest addition to my AN UNUSUAL POWER: the rise and influence of medical doctors, initiated by my awareness of how incredibly powerful and influential doctors had become as individuals and as a group. My research indicated that here and in Europe that growth in status and power had been slow and involved associations with central governments, government invested policing roles, and a dominant relationship over the poor and vulnerable as a consequence of laws on dissection. In mental health, doctors gained control of even the rich simply through diagnosis-usually made on anecdotal evidence-and private rather than public treatments in mad-houses. A prime victim was George 111 at the torturer’s hands of Dr Francis Willis.

Mad-houses allowed doctors to define their status, confirm healing roles, and monopolise their position as mental health experts.

As in doctor’s treatments for physical illnesses, their treatments for mental illness-bleeding, cupping, blistering, water ordeals, and beatings (advocated by Willis and used on the king)-were based on Ancient Greek medicine although strung along on Locke’s theories of the mind. Beating and torturing people apparently encouraged them to return to ‘reason’. In fact, to get back to leading a useful life, looking after business, making money and being a good citizen.

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