“You researched your blood pressure medication online? You shouldn’t do that! I’m the doctor, not you.”
“No, Vioxx has no major side effects. There’s no way it could’ve caused your heart attack.”
“You can’t sign a DNR. There’s always a chance that you could come out of a coma and get better. We’re going to hook you up to machines and keep you alive no matter how much pain you’re in or how little hope there is for recovery. You should be grateful that we’re SAVING you.”
“It doesn’t matter if the side effects of the chemotherapy are unbearable and aren’t shrinking your tumor. You’re ill, and that means you aren’t allowed to have a say in your treatment. If you refuse chemo, we’ll get a court order forcing you to keep getting the drugs.”
There is certainly something to be said for the paradigm pushing for people to accept mental illness the same as physical illness, without the stigma. It’s a smart analogy; whoever came up with it first must’ve been an excellent rhetorician.
But I feel like the practitioners of mainstream psychiatry have usurped it and now use it to disempower patients, and that pisses me off.
In any other kind of illness, our society recognizes the right to refuse treatment–even if there are effective treatments, even if others don’t think refusing treatment is in the patient’s best interest, even if it makes the person more of a burden on society, even if refusing treatment can cause death. We recognize that a person’s body and life belong to them alone, and they are allowed to make the decisions.
Except in psychiatry. When you become a psychiatric patient, you lose the right to self-determination. When you become a psych patient, you lose control of your surroundings, your circumstances, and even your body. You lose your autonomy, but you’re told that this total deprivation of control at the most basic levels is going to make you better. You’re told it’s for your own good.
No, it’s not always like that. There are psychiatrists and nurses and therapists and so forth who are decent human beings and treat their patients as human beings. Sadly, those practitioners are the exception, not the rule. I’ve had too many traumatic experiences with psychiatry to have any faith left in the system as a whole. And yes, I’m bitter and angry. How could I not be.
I’ll leave you with a brilliant quote from C.S. Lewis:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of wisdom or those who never will; to be classified with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.