harrowing account of forced sterilisation when a psychiatric patient
by Adam James
woman has written a harrowing and unparalleled account of how she
was forcibly sterilised when a psychiatric patient.
a first-person telling of what is recognised as a shameful episode
in psychiatry's history, Dorothea Buck-Zerchin writes how, when
aged 19, she was sterilised in a German hospital in 1936 during
aged 90 and who this year presented a key-note speech at
the World Psychiatric Association’s congress in Dresden, Germany,
calls upon psychiatry to be an “empirical science based on
the experiences of patients.”
Buck-Zerchin’s account is
in a chapter in a new book claiming to document “proven alternatives
to psychiatry” from around the world. She
writes that the sterilisation, given after she was admitted for
psychosis, was hidden from her.
"Even after the operation,
it was not a doctor or a nurse who told me what had been done to
me, but a fellow female patient,” she writes. “I was
She also says fellow patients at the
Christian hospital in Bethel were routinely told their sterilisation
scars were due to an appendectomy.
Buck-Zerchin’s chapter -
today published exclusively in full at psychminded.co.uk - includes
other incidents of inhumane treatment.
"Rest was given [to patients]
with wet packs and with sedating injections of paraldehyde. A wet
pack was made of cold, wet sheets bound so tightly that one could
no longer move. From our body temperature, the sheets would become
first warm and then hot. I would cry out in rage at this senseless
restraint in these hot sheets.”
Buck-Zerchin writes that, during
the Nazi eugenics "euthanasia” policy, 300,000 asylum
and nursing care home patients were gassed, poisoned or starved
a mental health campaigner in Germany for more than 30 years, is
opposed to biological psychiatry.
"The decades of backwardness
of this kind of psychiatry have not been overcome despite considerable
efforts in recent years.
"It remains devoid of conversation
and uses medication even under coercion and restraint just to fight
the symptoms, rather than aim for understanding," she writes.
approaches, such as “trialogue seminars”. Practiced
in Germany these involve people diagnosed with psychosis, family
members, carers, friends, and professionals meeting informally in
neutral settings to discuss mental health issues, ranging from prejudices
to neuroleptic medication.
account is included in “Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry”,
published by Peter Lehmann Publishing.
Whitaker, author of Mad in America, says the initiatives, such as
user-run services, described in the book "have a track record
of helping people get better."
yourself: Seventy Years of Coercion
in Psychiatric Institutions, Experienced and Witnessed - by
Read more on service provision: Service
Beyond Psychiatry, published by Peter Lehmann Publishing.
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