François Ferrero: Inquiry of the Geneva 1980s’ Psychiatry Crisis: Forced Hospitalization, ECT and Sleep Therapy


Hector Warnes’ comment on Eugenio Aguglia’s comment


        Eugenio Aguglia’s comments on François Ferrero’s paper were excellent! Aguglia described Franco Basaglia's career as a product of the socio-politics of the times. It started off, as he puts it, with politics in the ‘60s; continued by questioning the prevalent idea of mental illness and the call for the abolition of mental asylums and the treatment of those in need in general hospitals; and ended up, at least in Italy, with the integration of social and biological psychiatry and the defeat of Basaglia.

        Basaglia, a left-wing psychiatrist, achieved the abolition of ECT and the closure of some mental asylums. The consequences were that the burden of the insane fell on the families and the social order was compromised. In order to carry out his master plan Basaglia was able to get the support of the Judicial Powers. Aguglia outlines very well the sources of his militancy against the medical model of psychiatry (Sartre, Foucault, Laing and others from the blossoming anti-psychiatric movement, many of whom were psychiatrists themselves). Aguglia wisely and respectfully wrote that Basaglia turned psychiatry into a horizontal (not pyramidal or hierarchical) relationship between patients and psychiatrists where a therapeutic community was built and diagnoses were ignored in favor of a purely phenomenological approach.

        The social upheavals of the decades of the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s were significant in unleashing many institutional changes and overcoming right-wing authoritarian views. I notice that Aguglia did not make any comments on the protagonists or narrators about whom Ferrero wrote in his paper nor did he offer any details on the denouement of the psychiatric crisis in Italy and the fate of Basaglia.


February 6, 2020