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Manuscript from March 1997

Peter Lehmann

Theory and Practice of the Psychiatric Will

Timely precautions to turn away forced treatment and to defend human rights

Investigations and experiences show the necessity to protect yourself against forced psychiatric treatment. In the psychiatric system, they do not only neglect to seek your informed consent in a sufficient extend; often they treat you without asking you for your opinion even to some extend. This situation is violating human rights' declarations and your constitutional rights.

A ray of hope to change it is the Psychiatric Will. In a state of undoubted normality you can write down your will about treatment or non-treatment in the event that you later are brought into a psychiatric "clinic" (respective you move into an old-age home) and called "mentally ill" and "in need of" psychiatric drugs or electroshock.

The Psychiatric Will is a form with general clauses and with space for your special personal wishes. Unlike "crisis cards" or "treatment contracts" the Psychiatric Will is legally binding. In the past ten years in Germany, especially in Berlin, experiences have been made with the Psychiatric Will. When it was written correctly and a lawyer and the assigned persons of trust have been active to enforce the written will of the inmate, as a rule psychiatrists did not risk violating the Psychiatric Will, afraid of future claim for compensation. In 1990, the first leader of a Berlin psychiatric institution promised publicly, that in his institution Psychiatric Wills would be accepted without any discussion. Judges explained that they would not and could not impose any treatment guardianships upon inmates, if these resist treatment but have a Psychiatric Will written well before commitment. People could use madhouses as asylums: have shelter but are not forced to swallow psycho-pills or receive injections or electric shocks. People got free sooner because psychiatrists could not treat them unbridled. Or people got straitjackets and restraint belts instead of neuroleptics.

Without suppressing the "symptoms" chemically or with electricity, your original "symptoms" can create large problems. You have to weight up different (possible) problems against each other. But it is up you, who has the possibility to weight up, and not the psychiatrist. In the same way, when he or she looses a bit of his or her power, on your side the responsibility to care for yourself is growing.