Year

2000

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Science, Technology and Society Program - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

Doubts about the real nature of schizophrenia are long-standing. There are no laboratory tests to confirm diagnoses and it is not certain whether there is consistency in the diagnostic process. Various models have been developed to explain the cause of the symptoms. The dominant explanatory model is based on medical assumptions that the symptoms are pathological and are caused by an illness of the mind or brain. The medical model embraces a wide variety of psychological and biological theories of aetiology but there is no scientific/medical consensus and all the evidence supporting medical theories is equivocal. This apparent confusion gives rise to questions concerning the validity of a medical interpretation. Alternative, non-medical models explain the cause of the symptoms as being either a mystical/spiritual emergency (mystical model) or as social alienation (myth-of-mental-illness model). When a comparative analysis of the medical, mystical and myth-mental-illness models is undertaken in the light of interest group theory it is apparent that competing interest groups are promoting different explanatory models to achieve political ends. A key determinant of this political struggle involves the selection and emphasis of conflicting human rights imperatives. Human rights are central to the issue of schizophrenia because people who display the symptoms tend to be socially disruptive and, as a result, are frequently hospitalised involuntarily and forcibly treated with drugs that are mentally and physically debilitating.

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