Opposing Corruption in Psychiatric Science a Human Rights Imperative

Researchers Lisa Cosgrove and Allen Shaughnessy argue that “commercialized science” is incompatible with a human rights approach to mental health care.


A recent article published in Health and Human Rights explores how the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry undermines a human rights-based approach to mental health care. The authors, Lisa Cosgrove and Allen F. Shaughnessy, argue that “commercialized science,” with ties to the pharmaceutical industry, leads to individualized interventions that are profitable for companies and impedes social and structural changes that lead toward social justice. They propose moving toward a “moral” understanding of human suffering, rather than an economic one.

“The hegemony of the medical model and the over-reliance on organized psychiatry as the main policymaker has undermined the development of mental health policy ‘as a robust cross-sectoral issue.’ As a result, there has been an over-emphasis on biomedical interventions aimed at the individual rather than at population-based health promotion, even though the latter is just as important as individual health treatment,” Cosgrove and Shaughnessy write.
“The focus on biomedical interventions is particularly disconcerting because of the ways in which industry influence has compromised the scientific evidence base in medicine.”

In recent years, researchers, service-users, and disability advocates have argued for shifting toward a human rights-based approach to mental health care, critiquing, in particular, the reliance on “coercion” and “overmedicalization” in psychiatry.

The argument made by United Nations Special Rapporteur, Dainius Pūras, is that conventional psychiatry too often favors these individualistic medical approaches, while failing to account for social determinants of mental health, such as poverty, discrimination, and violence.

As author Lisa Cosgrove—in collaboration with Mad in America’s own Robert Whitaker—has documented “institutional corruption” in psychiatry plays a role in viewing and treating these systemic problems as individual problems.

The current article explores how “commercialized science” undermines a human rights-based approach to mental health care. Cosgrove and Shaughnessy argue that there is significant bias and economic conflict of interest in psychiatric science, medical education, and clinical practice, with unethical ties to the pharmaceutical industry. They discuss the extent of this bias and propose a “moral framework” for understanding human suffering instead.

Cosgrove and Shaughnessy state that unethical ties between academia and the medical industry have resulted in “staggering” corruption at various levels, including “prescribing practices, medical education, guideline recommendations, and editorial decisions,” as well as research evidence.

The authors discuss four dimensions of commercial bias in the research, practice, and education of psychiatry: 1) psychiatric taxonomy, 2) psychotropic drug trials, 3) clinical care guidelines, and 4) medical education.

They argue that the way the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was set up, beginning with the turn away from psychoanalysis to medical psychiatry with the third edition, encouraged a rationale of “a pill for every ill.” This was due to the DSM-III’s emphasis on quantifiable, symptom checklist-based diagnoses, mimicking conventional medicine.

The authors clarify that it was not the intention of the American Psychiatric Association to create a diagnostic system that would lend itself to pharmaceutical treatment, but they cite DSM-III chair Robert Spitzer as saying “[t]he pharmaceuticals were delighted” at the new diagnostic taxonomy. Cosgrove and Shaughnessy explain:

“The fact that the majority of DSM IV and DSM V panel members had financial ties to the manufacturers of psychotropic medications used to treat the disorders described in the manual has raised concerns about industry exerting an undue influence on it.”

Second, Cosgrove and Shaughnessy discuss the relationship between medical science and industry. For example, research has found that industry-sponsored studies, unsurprisingly, tend to support their products, creating what is known as “sponsorship bias.”

In psychiatric research, pharmaceutical studies with reported conflicts of interest were nearly five times as likely to report positive results. Phase III randomized psychotropic drug trials with industry funding “consistently results in the publication of pro-industry findings, overestimation of efficacy, and underreporting of harms.”

Clinical care guideline development is another area where conflicts of interest show up. 90% of the authors behind three major American Psychiatric Association clinical guidelines—for major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—had financial ties to the companies that created the drugs mentioned in these guides’ recommended treatments. Other research cited by the authors shows similar unethical attachments.

Finally, Cosgrove and Shaughnessy point to medical education as under the sway of industry interests as well. This ranges from medical students being provided with “meals to gifts to books or study aids” by pharmaceutical companies, to commercial support of continuing medical education credits (CME) for psychiatric practitioners. According to the authors: “almost three-fourths of the top 500 providers of CME receive commercial support.”

These industry-funded CME programs have been criticized for “containing marketing messages that are neither balanced nor accurate.” Despite calls from the National Academy of Medicine to end the relationship between industry and CME, little has changed.

Opposing bureaucratic and technocratic solutions, Cosgrove and Shaughnessy argue for a moral solution to these issues. They suggest several possibilities, such as:

  • Including the perspectives of service users with lived experience of psychological distress in developing “policies, programs, and standards of care.”
  • Challenging institutional stigmatizing of service users to avoid “benevolent othering.”
  • Emphasizing psychosocial “population-based health” rather than exclusively “intra-individual” treatments.
  • Looking at power asymmetries—a shift “from talking about chemical imbalances to addressing power imbalances.”

The authors conclude:

“What are the conditions for the possibility of a robust human rights approach to mental health? While that question eludes easy answers, a necessary starting point is recognizing that the precarious epistemological foundations of psychiatry allow the mental health field to be manipulated by industry.
Therefore, although it is clear that many people throughout the world are not getting the health care they need and deserve, it is also evident that the uncritical exportation of the biomedical disease model will not provide optimally effective mental health interventions at either the individual or population level.”



Cosgrove, L. & Shaughnessy, A. F. (2020). Mental health as a basic human right and the interference of commercialized science. Health and Human Rights, 22(1), 61-68. (Link)

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Micah Ingle, PhD
Micah is part-time faculty in psychology at Point Park University. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology: Consciousness and Society from the University of West Georgia. His interests include humanistic, critical, and liberation psychologies. He has published work on empathy, individualism, group therapy, and critical masculinities. Micah has served on the executive boards of Division 32 of the American Psychological Association (Society for Humanistic Psychology) as well as Division 24 (Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). His current research focuses on critiques of the western individualizing medical model, as well as cultivating alternatives via humanities-oriented group and community work.


  1. It is “evident that the uncritical exportation of the biomedical disease model will not provide optimally effective mental health interventions at either the individual or population level.”

    Well stated, thank you. And quite to the contrary, exportation of the “invalid” DSM “biomedical disease model” is the dumbest idea in the world. But a desire to do so is consistent with the psychiatric/psychological belief system, that when someone says no, or when their entire industry is proven to be scientifically “invalid.” They just tell bigger lies, and continue to use force, force, and more force.

    The entire, scientific fraud based “mental health” system, is a run amok group of “invalid” and criminal industries at this point. A group of industries, whose primary actual societal function is covering up child abuse, which is illegal, but mandated by DSM design.


    And the “mental health” system is a group of corrupt industries which are unrepentantly murdering 8 million innocent people EVERY year, with their neurotoxic drugs, and their “invalid” disorders.


    Let’s end the modern day, enormous in scope, all Western civilization, psychiatric holocaust. And build some holocaust museums to morn the 8 million innocent people that have been – and are still being – murdered every year for decades, by our modern day psychiatrists, and their many “mental health” minion. Instead of exporting this scientific fraud based, primarily child abuse covering up, mass murdering, psychiatric system to the rest of the world.

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    • Thank you for this your comment. I absoluitely agree with you, having almost been put to death with these drugs. I could escape. I am German, this happened in Germany in the 21st century. It reminds me of our darkest times in history, times I had thought had ended in 1945…
      Psychiatry is not based on science, but on fraud. It has nothing to do with humanity. When they have you, you may well feel you are a holocaust victim…

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  2. Thanks Micah,

    Words such as “overemphasizing” and “overreliance” by critics, just make me suspect that psychiatry hired them, to keep psychiatry’s emphasizing and reliance alive and well.

    “What are the conditions for the possibility of a robust human rights approach to mental health?”

    “In recent years, researchers, service-users, and disability advocates have argued for shifting toward a human rights-based approach to mental health care, critiquing, in particular, the reliance on “coercion” and “overmedicalization” in psychiatry.”

    Again, the word “OVER-MEDICALIZATION”. They were given pen and script pad, that was the mistake. The word “Over” suggests that there is a “proper time” and amount. And who exactly would decide when it is proper? Would it not be the same psychiatrists that already seem to know when it is needed? They lie about it now, so we first have to make them non liers. So it is not about medicalization, but about the lies behind the medicalization. And really, I’m not sure why in real science the word “medicalization” is still being used. It is NOT an appropriate word for what is concocted by labs, nor are the “diseases” science.

    “The authors clarify that it was not the intention of the American Psychiatric Association to create a diagnostic system that would lend itself to pharmaceutical treatment, but they cite DSM-III chair Robert Spitzer as saying “[t]he pharmaceuticals were delighted” at the new diagnostic taxonomy. Cosgrove and Shaughnessy explain:
    “The fact that the majority of DSM IV and DSM V panel members had financial ties to the manufacturers of psychotropic medications used to treat the disorders described in the manual has raised concerns about industry exerting an undue influence on it.”

    Industry IS psychiatry, psychiatry IS the industry. So yes, they made the mess and are DIRECTLY responsible for the hoax of being “medical doctors”. They are absolutely NOTHING of the sort and to claim that title of doctor has defiled even regular medicine.

    Psychiatry has to pack up, or distinguish themselves as the social guardian that they fail at miserably, since their practice on unwitting individuals and society as a whole has brought society down further and will continue to do so.
    We not only pay psychiatry, but pay to clean up the shit and sorrow they leave in their destructive paths.

    We need a much bigger conversation than “human rights”. But it is a place to start.

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  3. Better to think of it as pharmacological psychiatry, as real medicine takes a back seat in conventional psychiatry. Think Pseudo-medical psychiatry, where the attempt is to push drugs and disabling treatments to cure the financial ailments of pharmaceutical companies and device providers.

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    • Yes bcharris,
      We will notice that the drugs for “brains” have an infinity quantity about them, because the “brain” is infinite and vast. As long as we have societal issues, we can indeed make chemicals endlessly.

      The magic words in all this pseudo crap was “illness” and “doctor”

      Science seems rather stuck with “chemo” for cancer. They fear that ruining the body might not be a good thing and results in lawsuits.
      However, ruining the brain, no one can prove, and when they do, it is said to be “illness”.
      It ended up straying from an innocent obsession by such men affected, to become something that most could not possibly believe in anymore.
      But it was difficult for priests to back out of their chosen profession.

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    • Oddly, I recently ran across a psych forum where a student asked if it was necessary to perform a physical exam on every patient. One doctor answered, and emphatically, yes! But then the rest of the comments covered how most psychs manage to avoid physical exams entirely.

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      • I’d say it is an extreme rarity that any psychiatrist performs even a rudimentary medical exam. They don’t even seem generally to have the equipment to do so in their offices. It’s clearly not an expectation, which says a lot right there.

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        • If you can report that from what you know, that puts a few more nails in the coffin. I have seen a few photos of psych offices, plus fictional depictions, and they never seemed like real doctor’s offices to me. The one I visited once certainly didn’t look like one.

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          • I see no alcohol wipes, no blood drawing equipment, no stethoscopes, not even a blood pressure cuff or thermometer or a scale. Usually just a desk, books and a filing cabinet. Pens, papers, coffee, whatever, but no sign of a medical exam being even a possibility. And clients I’ve spoken to almost never report any kind of medical workup, and most that do are sent to someone or someplace else to do it. Psychiatrists don’t do medical exams in the vast majority of cases, based on my observations and data.

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        • Interesting twist in my situation. Lets just say it was lawful for police to refer me to the Community Nurse and I am delivered to the hospital as “referred person”.

          Referred person has lost their right to liberty, but has not seen a psychiatrist yet and therefore is not a “patient”. And as such has not lost their right to consent.

          So what happens when a doctor (senior medical officer) wishes to do a physical examination without the consent of the referred person who they have locked in their cage? Just assault them and if they give you any problems stick them with a needle full of anti psychotics is the method used here. Claim later it was an emergency if they manage to get beyond the dribble therapy and make a complaint. Hey, get the Minister to call the complaint an illness.

          Absolutely disgusting how depraved some peoples behavior becomes when they are exposed to an environment where they are unaccountable. We saw the results of that at Abu Ghraib. And I mean this guy was also an Ordained Minister, so while he was shaking when he did the examination (which is a euphemism for the assault), he really knew he would not be held to account and had someone in a position where he could have them restrained while he removed their clothes and inserted objects into their mouth or anus without consent. Sounds bad but …….. i’m sure he knew God was watching, and asked forgiveness for his trespass, and then gave himself that forgiveness.

          The question remains, did he know what he was doing was wrong but did it anyway? The fumbling and shaking when I said “you do not have my consent to conduct this examination, and if you do it will constitute an assault” answers that question.

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  4. Another idea for psychiatrists.

    Quit lying.
    Quit telling “consumers”–or using mouthpieces like NAMI to tell them–that Science has proven they have a “broken” brain proven to be caused entirely by a “chemical imbalance” and faulty genes already discovered.

    Quit telling people experiencing a bad trip caused by the mind altering drugs you push that it’s all their fault. Those drugs never have that effect on anyone. Unless they’re crazy to start with or lying about taking them “exactly as prescribed.”

    Quit telling family members “Drug X never does that to anyone. It’s all John’s illness causing him to sleep 12 hours a day, not cry or smile, silently pace for hours at a time, have mini seizures while his eyes roll back in his head. If he would just take his ‘meds’ exactly as prescribed he wouldn’t bother you with these symptoms. Obviously he’s not really taking them.” (Any search for drug side effects can help us catch you in this deception anyhow.)

    Quit lying to the public about how your Science has the infallible ability to weed out serial killers, mass shooters and all other criminal types in our midst with laundry lists of personality traits that lump groups of random individuals together as guilty or “sick” by association. Is red your favorite color? So was Jeffrey Dahmers’!

    Quit lying to the public about how you want to end “stigma.” You don’t. “Stigma” or slander is the best advertising technique to sell your product as Fuller Torrey, Tim Murphy, and countless others know.

    Yes. Telling the truth is pretty essential to morality. Especially when people’s reputations, health, and lives are at stake.
    Quit lying.

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  5. Corruption in psychiatry starts with the mother tongue. Bodily organs develop illnesses, minds don’t develop illnesses. I caught a cold, in other words, is more correct than I caught a fear of other people (i.e. agoraphobia). People don’t choose to catch a common cold, however, there must be more choice involved in the contagious quality of agoraphobia. Evasions of personal responsibility, hmm, I think we’ve got an out here that psychiatry, “mental health” policing authorities anyway, have been responsible, in an irresponsible manner of course, for promoting.

    Just imagine, thinking one has a disease when one doesn’t have a disease has become an excuse for the prescription of toxic, and often addictive, chemicals. I don’t imagine taking such chemicals is going to make anybody think they don’t have an imaginary disease, if such thinking be “health”.

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    “Anti Psychotic” Drugs cause Suicide and Homicide (Akathisia), Disability, Ill Health and Early Death.

    “Akathisia Suicides” are ‘philosophically’ covered up through a Policy of Psychiatric Corruption and Self Interest, and “Akathisia Violence” is blamed on the “Patient”.

    Coming off “Antipsychotic” Drugs responsibly can lead to Full Recovery. A Fact that has been demonstrated many times on this Website.

    “Anti Psychotic” Drugs can also cause “Schizophrenia” in the Misdiagnosed – Black People are NOT 9 times more likely to develop “Schizophrenia”:


    “…In 2006, ÆSOP reported a ninefold increase in the risk of developing schizophrenia in black Caribbeans when compared with the white British population..”

    I’ve been on these drugs myself. I was disabled while I took them, and I found it extremely difficult to come off them.

    I notice that most people that genuinely Recover as a result of stopping “medication” Recover in similar ways.

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    • I was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. I got all these drugs.
      I could escape. Psychiatry has nothing to do with science, but a lot with criminal energy and a bad ideology. I recommend the books by the late Dr. Thomas Szasz.
      There are no illnesses like schizophrenia, and if we look at the inventors and their then political ideas (far right) we should as societies worldwide put an end to these human rights crimes committed amongst us every day.

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  7. Psychiatric Abuse goes hand in hand with Diagnosis, and this is why (in my opinion), “Schizophrenia” should be internationally outlawed.

    There’s been a mass chemical Killing of people labelled with “Schizophrenia” by Psychiatry in the past 60 years that would equal a tiny fraction of the “mercy killings genocide” which took place in parts of Europe in the 1930s.

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    • Hear Hear!
      And is it not the variation of genetics that created psychiatry? What exact gene makes psychiatry so bloody abusive? So stubborn to cling to ideals? So manipulative and lying, to present itself as a specialty? What gene causes nurses and regular doctors to be dishonest in their chosen fields or works?
      What “personality disorders” reside in those who have done and continue to wield their power only?
      I have found it very odd that the “dsm” seems to be a shield of immunity for those who wrote it. Like sin was written for a mass of vulnerable, but a shield for the powerful.

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      • Psychiatry has ever so much to do with Eugenics. In Nazi Germany they wanted to “help” the “poor mentally ill” by putting them to death with drugs.
        Where is the difference between those days and today?

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        • They’re much better at concealing what their intentions. To be fair–most neighborhood shrinks believe they help people.

          “Life saving medications. They are just like insulin for diabetes.”
          But nobody gets better even if we take them faithfully. Our bodies and brains fail rapidly. And no one cares but us.

          And maybe our loved ones. If “mental health” fails to alienate them. They don’t like family members offering real emotional support and love to us.

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  8. Psychiatry is a PSEUDOSCIENCE. I’d argue that astrology is a more legitimate science than psychiatry can ever be. Astrology has been practiced for 1000’s of years. Psychiatry is at most a couple hundred years old. Long past time to toss psychiatry where it belongs. On the scrap heap of history….

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    • Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a mechanism of social control. It’s 21st Century Phrenology, with potent neurotoxins. Psychiatry has done, and continues to do, FAR MORE HARM than good. If the best we can do is articles like the above, we will be afflicted with psychiatry for too long into the future….may as well gather round the May pole, and chant a few rounds of “Some drugs are good meds, and more are better”….
      What a joke. The equivalent would be if was the Black Lives Don’t Really Matter movement….

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  9. In my recent looks at the COVID experience, I have noticed (though I knew it already) that regular medical doctors are under this same foot (so to speak). My look included the whole drama over ventilation (which is a drug-intense procedure somewhat similar to ECT in terms of patient preparation). Doctors were not talking to patients but just throwing them on ventilators because they presented with low blood oxygen. But those patients usually died. Keeping patients off ventilation (and the very heavy drugs associated with it) results in much higher survival. But there were doctors who didn’t seem to care about that. What did those doctors care about?

    The problem is much worse in psychiatry, though.

    I disagree with Frank about the importance of language, as I’ve stated many times before. I don’t think that’s as important as doctor ignorance which has allowed the “medical model” to persist in the face of all evidence that it should be abandoned. Not only has psychiatry become invested in psychopharmaceuticals, but by so doing, it has also become invested in its own ignorance. WE should not make the same mistake! Regardless of what mental health problems should be called, we should stand firm that they should not be treated with drugs, because we’re dealing with a mind, not a body. Of course, if the body is sick, the person will suffer. And even a real doc sometimes gets that wrong. We ALL need weaning from the medical model! It in itself invites dangerous doctor behaviors, both in psychiatry and in regular medicine.

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    • l_e_cox

      Good observation about ventilators. These are called heroics, and no doctors are not ignorant. There is one system that most go by, self protection. hence the ventilators.
      It is more likely to survive, without them, in the case of infected and inflamed lungs. Besides, ventilation most often results in trauma, a violation and can highly likely result in clients becoming “mentally ill”. Ask people who have been ventilated. And each ventilation can be done like a rough machine, or more gentle with proper medication. So one vent is not like another vent.
      No two people thus can ever be compared in studies.

      “We ALL need weaning from the medical model! It in itself invites dangerous doctor behaviors, both in psychiatry and in regular medicine.”

      Indeed. And the “mental” model.

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  10. “We ALL need weaning from the medical model! It in itself invites dangerous doctor behaviors, both in psychiatry and in regular medicine.”

    Nitpicking but is there an “irregular medicine”. I assume you mean REAL medicine. Psychiatrists are the Hells Angels of medicine, they f$%^ everything they touch. lol

    [adapted from graffiti I saw in a band room that said “roadies are the Hells Angels of Rock and Roll…….. ” author unknown]

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    • Mhmm Boans.
      In Canada we don’t have real medicine, unless you mean Tylenol. There is the segment of “medicine”, but it is so diseased with the psychiatry model that there are no more lines.
      For some reason, a heart specialist can diagnose you enough to leave a trail of innuendos about being sick in the head, can even prescribe the shrink drugs, but a shrink cannot diagnose you to be sick in the heart.

      A shrink will never refer you to a heart specialist, unless you had a heart attack while in his office. I’m finding it odd that a regular doc seems to know SO much about the mind/brain, yet a shrink knows nothing about the body.

      Poor shrinks lose money by other docs doing two jobs.

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  11. Perhaps instead of saying, “Opposing corruption in psychiatric science,” we could just call it “opposing psychatric corruption posing as science.” As I commented in another post, it’s a pretty big stretch to even use the term “psychiatric science.” It’s kind of an oxymoron, because if psychiatry were at all interested in science, it would have to tear down the entire structure and start over again.

    Unless they mean the “science” of making lots of money through clever marketing of destructive ideas…

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