Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

From The New York Times, Letters to the Editor, March 6, 1996, p. A20:

Medicine Can Do Without Religion or State

To the Editor:

In "When Death is Not the End" (Op-Ed, March 2), George J. Annas argues against the entanglement of religious beliefs and medicine. But just as we must separate religious beliefs from medicine, so must we separate the state from medicine.

Whereas religious beliefs may be used by government to deny the reality of death, psychiatric beliefs may be used by government to deny the realities of life. Thus do we have, as the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz referred to it more than thirty years ago, a "therapeutic state."

Theological ideas about good and evil are replaced with psychiatric ones called mental "health" and "illness." The marriage of medicine and state is used to justify involuntary treatment for mental illness, criminal exculpation through the insanity defense, denial of due process based on psychiatric declarations of mental incompetence. The entanglement of religion and medicine seems to pale by comparison.

Silver Spring, Md., March 3, 1996
The writer is an adjunct professor, department of justice, law and society, American University.