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November 21, 1980

Punitive Medicine

Author Affiliations

University of Illinois Medical Center Chicago


by Alexander Podrabinek, 223 pp, with illus, $12.95, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 (3400 Daleview Dr), Karoma Publishers, 1980.

JAMA. 1980;244(20):2354. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310200078038

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


In the decade since the American Psychiatric Association condemned the use of psychiatric institutions for the suppression of political dissent, the practice has continued to spread in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Alexander Podrabinek wrote this account after working as a medical assistant and pursued his research while undergoing police harrassment. He has since been arrested and is in exile in Russia. The manuscript was smuggled out, translated, and published in this country.

Podrabinek recounts the historical absence of a civil liberties tradition in Russia, asserting that compulsory psychiatric treatment was not needed in Czarist or early Communist times as liquidation was more efficient. Nonetheless, shortly after the revolution of 1917, punitive hospitalizations began, and a network of "special psychiatric hospitals" developed to confine thousands of dissidents and "socially dangerous individuals."

Punitive Medicine contains many quotations from former inmates or "patient-prisoners," photographs of hospitals and ex-inmates, and also pictures