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Political Abuse of Psychiatry—An Historical Overview
The use of psychiatry for political purposes has been a major subject of debate within the world psychiatric community during the second half of the 20th century. The issue became prominent in the 1970s and 1980s due to the systematic political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, where approximately one-third of the political prisoners were locked up in psychiatric hospitals. The issue caused a major rift within the World Psychiatric Association, from which the Soviets were forced to withdraw in 1983. They returned conditionally in 1989. Political abuse of psychiatry took also place in other socialist countries and on a systematic scale in Romania, and during the first decade of the 21st century, it became clear that systematic political abuse of psychiatry is also happening in the People's Republic of China. The article discusses the historical background to these abuses and concludes that the issue had a major impact on the development of concepts regarding medical ethics and the professional responsibility of physicians.