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Dr Benning1 nicely summarises some of the major conceptual errors in the writings of the late Dr Thomas Szasz.
Dr Szasz, who was one of my professors during residency, had important things to say about protecting the civil liberties of people with mental illness. However, his view of schizophrenia as a self-inflicted form of lying has done great injury to those who have this devastating illness. For example, in his 1996 book The Meaning of Mind, Szasz wrote:
‘I believe viewing the schizophrenic as a liar would advance our understanding of schizophrenia. What does he lie about? Principally about his own anxieties, bewilderments, confusions, deficiencies and self-deception’2 (p. 130).
In recent years Szasz's position has been undermined by scores of studies showing that individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia show brain abnormalities at a significantly higher frequency than healthy controls.3–5 More important, however, is the recognition that disease (dis-ease) is best understood as an enduring state of suffering and incapacity – not, as Szasz argued, as the presence of lesions or abnormal physiology.6