Current Psychology

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 3-17

First online:

Psychiatry under tyranny: A report on the political abuse of Romanian psychiatry during the ceausescu years

  • Nanci AdlerAffiliated withGeneva Initiative on Psychiatry
  • , Gerard O. W. MuellerAffiliated withGraduate School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Newhouse Center for Law & Justice
  • , Mohammed AyatAffiliated withUniversité de Fes

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Romanians suffered incredible deprivations of every sort during the decades of Communist dictatorship. Most of the country’s 1,000 psychiatrists, and most of their patients, were victimized by the political system. A few psychiatrists actively engaged in practices amounting to torture. Many, however, became willing or unwilling participants in the political abuse of their profession.

Such political abuses were fostered by abusive legislation and abusive law enforcement by the secret police. Abuses included: mass detentions in psychiatric hospitals of dissidents and political undesirables; abusive interpretation of the laws in detaining persons not suffering from mental illness; false, politically motivated diagnoses and treatment; and detention in secret facilities.

While there are honest efforts to come to grips with the past, to compensate victims of psychiatric abuse, and to institute proceedings against abusers, there is also much resistance to reform. Reform-minded Romanian psychiatrists deserve the support of their western colleagues in the effort to restore Romanian psychiatry. In particular, professional colleagues all over the world are asked to comment on the draft law currently pending before the Romanian parliament, which is intended to restore the rule of law to the practice of psychiatry in Romania.