“The Delirium of Religious Reformism”: Punitive Psychiatry Makes a Comeback in Chelyabinsk

Alexei Moroshkin. Photo courtesy of Memorial
Alexei Moroshkin. Photo courtesy of Memorial Human Rights Center

Chelaybinsk Resident Alexei Moroshkin’s Stay in Mental Hospital Extended Six Months
OVD Info
January 11, 2017

On January 10, the Soviet District Court in Chelyabinsk extended Alexei Moroshkin’s forced confinement in a psychiatric hospital for another six months, according to his mother Tatyana Moroshkina. Moroshkin had been sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment after having been accused of calling for violation of the Russian Federation’s territorial integrity.

According to Moroshkina, the court paid no attention to any of the arguments made by the defense, neither that her son’s actions and statements did not pose a threat to others, nor that, according to his medical record and the opinion of his physician, he was not dangerous and there was no need to hospitalize him. In making its ruling, the court was guided by the unsubstantiated opinion of court-appointed experts that Alexei Moroshkin could be dangerous, said his mother.

Moroshkin was committed to Regional Clinical Mental Hospital No. 1 in Chelyabinsk in December 2015. Prior to this, a court had considered the charges of calls for separatism made against him in connection with texts, posted on the VKontakte social network, about the need to establish a Ural People’s Republic. In November 2015, a court absolved Moroshkin of criminal liability, declaring him mentally incompetent on the basis of opinions submitted by medical forensic examiners, who during the police investigation had diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia, adding that he suffered from the “delirium of religious reformism.” This diagnosis was occasioned, apparently, by Moroshkin’s online publications and interviews dealing with the virtual Church of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite, which he had invented. At present, acccording to his mother, the medical experts do not mention delirium, but nevertheless consider her son mentally ill and a danger to others.

Before criminal charges were filed against him, Moroshkin had never been under a psychiatrist’s care.

According to his mother, Moroshkin’s physical condition has deteriorated: he suffers from a heart disease. The court also failed to take this circumstance into account.

In October 2016, Moroshkin was suddenly transferred to a wing with worse living conditions than before. Shortly before this, the hospital’s head physician was fined for refusing to provide information about Moroshkin to his defense attorney.

Currently, another case involving Moroshkin is under investigation. He has been accused of painting a bust of Lenin in Chelyabinsk in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and charged under Article 214.2 of the Criminal Code (vandalism).

Translated by the Russian Reader

Punitive Psychiatry Is Back (Again): The Case of Dmitry Vorobyovsky

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Dmitry Vorobyovsky holding a placard that reads, “Down with Putin and his KGB gang!”

How Quiet Peace Activist Vorobyovsky Wound Up in a Mental Hospital: His Lawyer’s Story
Alla Chernyshova
Activatica
May 11, 2016

On May 6, someone rang the door of Voronezh grassroots activist Dmitry Vorobyovsky. The people at the door said they were from the municipal gas company. However, as soon as they entered the apartment, it turned out they were psychiatric hospital orderlies. They suddenly restrained Vorobyovsky, despite his sister’s protests, and took him to the Voronezh Psychiatric Hospital in the city’s outlying Tenistyi neighborhood. Vorobyovsky is currently at the hospital, where he has been injected with unknown drugs.

At 2:15 p.m. on May 12, the Soviet District Court in Voronezh will hear Vorobyovsky’s case. The psychiatric hospital wants to get a legal seal of approval for his hospitalization. Civil rights activists have launched a campaign of support and have asked people to send letters to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

How legal and justified was the activist’s hasty hospitalization? To find out, I spoke with his lawyer, Olga Gnezdilova.

Was there any background or reason for what happened?

Theoretically, there is a background. The doctors cite the fact he was diagnosed in 1983, and he had been registered with the hospital. But he has felt absolutely normal for thirty years. He has not been aggressive. So now we have posed the question: if he needs treatment, then prescribe a course of treatment. He can undergo treatment at home. After all, he was not showing any signs of needing hospitalization or even treatment, meaning he interacted normally with other people and went to protest rallies. But of course he really irritated the local authorities. He has been detained by police on several occasions. But there are no grounds for subjecting him to compulsory medical treatment.

Were there incidents when he behaved aggressively?

No, Dmitry is generally a very calm person. He holds pacifist convictions. He is against violence, and he has protested the war in Ukraine. He is a very cultured, polite person. He has never had any aggressive outbursts his entire life, although formally, he had this diagnosis. On the other hand, even odd behavior is not cause in itself for forcible hospitalization.

He has been absolutely calm and living with his sister. They entered his home under false pretenses, by pretending to be city gas company employees. His sister objected to his being detained, since were no grounds for it at all. When I spoke with him, he told me the whole story himself.

Why do we have to go to court now? Because there we can voice an alternative stance. We need a platform where we can voice our arguments. Currently, he is basically being held against his will, but by law a court hearing has to verify the validity of the claims against him. In court, we can petition to conduct an alternative forensic examination as to whether he is a danger or not. Generally, being a danger to society or oneself is grounds for involuntary hospitalization: for example, if a person beats his head against the wall or plans to kill someone. This does not apply to anyone and everyone whose health is a bit quirky.

What, in your opinion, was the real reason for the hospitalization?

At first, we thought it had to with the May 9 celebrations, which were attended by various officials. Dmitry often takes to the street with placards. It is usually one and the same placard. [See the photograph, above — Editor.] They probably thought he would spoil the “view” for them.

But now it is May 11, and he still has not been released. So, basically, it is hard to say. Maybe it has something to do with the [nationwide parliamentary] elections [in September]?

Some dispatched an ambulance to his house. The hospital won’t say who it was. We think it was the work of our secret service.

How is Vorobyovsky now? Are they giving him shots of some kind?

Yes, they are injecting him with drugs. We don’t know what they are. The doctors are not telling either us or him what they are, claiming it is confidential medical information.

But have they affected his condition?

Basically, he feels okay right now. He is not sluggish or sleepy. I have spoken with him: he conversed with me normally. It is another matter how long this will last.

Tell me, how does the whole situation appear from a legal point of view? They gained entry to his home disguised as municipal gas company employees, restrained him, and took him away.

From a legal point of view, they should have put the issue to the court within forty-eight hours. We really expected a hearing on May 8. We spent the whole day running around to the on-duty prosecutor, to the court, to the hospital. Everywhere we went, we told them that since they had detained him right before the holidays, on a business day, at five in the afternoon on May 6, then be so kind as to put the issue to the court, find an on-duty judge. But we were told that on-duty judges do not rule on such matters, only on arrests. There is a law that allows judges five days to review the hospital’s petition. But at the same time, this provision had already been ruled unconstitutional a bit earlier. Generally speaking, according to the Constitution, any detention must be authorized by a court within forty-eight hours. Even if a person is considered violent, and they grabbed him and tied him up, be so kind as to put the question of his hospitalization to the court.

That did not happen, and we believe this is a serious violation. We have already obtained authorization from Vorobyovsky for an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, at least in connection with his being detained for forty-eight hours without a court order and his being tied to the bed.

He was tied up?

Yes, for the first three hours after he was brought to the hospital, he lay tied up. His hands and feet were tied. His body went numb, of course. It is a very painful procedure. We are going to file a complaint.

Where is he now?

Vorobyovsky is at the Voronezh Municipal Psychiatric Hospital, in the Tenistyi neighborhood.

Do you think he ended up there because of his public activism?

We think someone instigated the call due to his public activism.

What protest rallies was Dmitry involved in?

Practically in everything that took place. For example, he was involved in a picket in defense of [imprisoned environmentalist] Yevgeny Vitishko, in a rally against the war in Ukraine, in a rally against proposed nickel mining in Voronezh Region. Basically, he has always joined in every opposition event.  And yet on his part there have never been any conflicts or aggression, any reason to isolate him from society, like now.

But there were arrests?

Yes, there were administrative detentions. But that is a common occurrence at such events. A few people are always detained by police.

What are your next moves for getting him out?

We are now mostly waiting for the court’s decision. We cannot go any further without it.

On May 8, we appealed to the prosecutor’s office to intervene. They forwarded our appeal to the Investigative Committee. It now must make a decision within three working days, beginning yesterday. However, under these circumstances it is the prosecutor’s office and the court that will primarily be making the decision.

As soon the court’s ruling is rendered, we will be contacting the European Court of Human Rights. It cannot be done earlier.

In addition, Amnesty International has now launched a campaign for people to bombard the prosecutor’s office and the municipal health committee with requests to comment on Vorobyovsky’s case.

Journalists in Voronezh have told me that all day yesterday people were calling the city health authorities and mental health clinic. However, citing medical confidentiality, the officials refused to comment even on the fact that Vorobyovsky has been detained too long without a court hearing. Meaning they will not even answer questions have nothing directly to do with medical issues. The prosecutor’s office has been telling callers they can complain to the Investigative Committee, that they are not planning to do anything.

At the moment, we are hoping the campaign will ultimately make them start giving people answers.

How are the doctors behaving under the circumstances?

Differently. The on-duty doctor who was there when I visited the hospital and asked Vorobyovsky to come out of his room and meet me, basically agreed with me when I said he was completely normal and behaving well. Yet she said that was because he had already been receiving treatment. The deputy chief physician, with whom I spoke on the phone, told me quite confidently they would definitely file suit, and that there were grounds for compulsory treatment and confinement in the hospital. But he considers Vorobyovsky’s diagnosis such grounds. Yet the doctor could not tell me the reason for the hospitalization and said the hospital did not know who called the ambulance.

I gather that who called the ambulance is the big secret?

Yes. And the hospital also believes that Dmitry is having a relapse. But the question is what this relapse consists of.

So a man is sitting at home, not bothering anybody, and an unknown person calls the ambulance for some reason. So the next event is the court hearing on May 12?

Yes.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International

Victoria Lomasko: Mikhail Kosenko and the “Psychiatrist”

simptomi

Expert witness psychiatrist Inna Ushakova: “Kosenko exhibited lethargy, flaccidity, mood changes and fear of people wanting to harm him…”

Psychiatrist Inna Ushakova, an expert witness, lists for the court the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia exhibited, allegedly, by Bolotnaya Square defendant Mikhail Kosenko. I am sure that anyone else caught up in this situation would present the exact same “symptoms.”

Mikhail Kosenko had asked that the court hearing be held in closed chambers.

Ushakova was part of a panel of doctors who changed Kosenko’s diagnosis from “sluggish schizophrenia”* to paranoid schizophrenia. Ushakova says openly that the diagnosis was changed, among other things, on the basis of documents sent to the doctors by a major case squad investigator. Kosenko faces a sentence of compulsory medical treatment if convicted.

On September 10, the court refused to grant Mikhail Kosenko a temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral. Letters sent to inform Kosenko about her illness were not handed over to this “prisoner of May 6”: the prison censor failed to pass them.

Victoria Lomasko
September 24, 2013

* Sluggishly progressing schizophrenia or sluggish schizophrenia (Russian: вялотеку́щая шизофрени́я, vyalotekushchaya shizofreniya) is an independent diagnostic category that is characterized by a slowly progressive course and included in the systematics of schizophrenia developed by Soviet psychiatrist Andrei Snezhnevsky and his Soviet colleagues. This diagnostic concept was limited to the USSR and some other East European countries.

Sluggish schizophrenia is not included in the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) used in western countries; however, its Russian version adds sluggish schizophrenia to schizotypal personality disorder in section F21 of chapter V.

[…]

Psychiatric diagnoses (such as the diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia” in political dissidents) in the USSR were used for political purposes; the diagnosis of sluggish schizophrenia was most frequently used for Soviet dissidents. Critics implied that Andrei Snezhnevsky designed the Soviet model of schizophrenia (and this diagnosis) to make political dissent a mental illness. According to American psychiatrist Peter Breggin, the term “sluggish schizophrenia” was created to justify involuntary treatment of political dissidents with drugs normally used for psychiatric patients.

According to Robert van Voren, the political abuse of psychiatry in the USSR arose from the concept that people who opposed the Soviet regime were mentally ill (since there was no logical reason to oppose the sociopolitical system considered the best in the world). The diagnosis of sluggish schizophrenia (a concept developed by the Moscow School of Psychiatry and its chief, Andrei Snezhnevsky) furnished a framework for explaining this behavior.

Although a majority of experts agree that the psychiatrists who developed this concept did so under instructions from the Soviet secret service KGB and the Communist Party (and understood what they were doing), this seemed to many Soviet psychiatrists a logical explanation why someone would be willing to abandon his happiness, family, and career for a conviction so different from what most individuals believed (or made themselves believe). Professor Snezhnevsky, the most prominent theorist of Soviet psychiatry and director of the Institute of Psychiatry of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences, developed a novel classification of mental disorders postulating an original set of diagnostic criteria.

Source: Wikipedia

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lenta.ru
October 2, 2013
Compulsory Psychiatric Treatment Requested for Bolotnaya Square Case Defendant

Михаил Косенко
Mikhail Kosenko (Photo: Pyotr Kassin / Kommersant)

During oral arguments in the Bolotnaya Square case, the federal prosecutor requested that Mikhail Kosenko be subjected to compulsory psychiatric treatment, reports RAPSI Legal News Agency.

The prosecutor asked that the defendant be found guilty of violating Article 212 (involvement in mass riots) and Article 318 (use of violence against a representative of the authorities) of the Russian Federal Criminal Code and sentenced to compulsory psychiatric treatment. According to the prosecution, Kosenko “heeded appeals [sic] and took part in mass riots,” thus slightly injuring a riot police officer.

Kosenko suffers from sluggish schizophrenia [sic], but his relatives argue that he does not require compulsory treatment. They have asked that he undergo another psychiatric examination. Previously, he was found mentally incompetent.

Earlier, two riot police officers summoned by the court to testify in the Kosenko case were unable to identify him. One of them, complainant Alexander Kazmin, testified that during the clashes on Bolotnaya Square, he had been thrown to the ground and could not remember his attackers. Kazmin added that even if Kosenko had injured him during the riots, he would not want the accused to go to prison. Kazmin’s testimony was corroborated by his colleague Roman Puzikov. However, Kosenko was identified by two other complainants, riot police officers Maxim Sanayev and Sergei Lukyanov.

In early September, the court refused to grant Kosenko a temporary release to attend his mother’s funeral, arguing that he suffers from a mental disorder and could present a danger to society.

Mikhail Kosenko’s case was separated from that of the other defendants in the case of the May 6, 2012, riots on Bolotnaya Square, because he was declared mentally incompetent. Along with him in the dock are twelve other defendants, who face hefty prison terms. Two defendants in the case have already been sentenced to prison after making deals with investigators. Around thirty people have been detained or charged in the Bolotnaya Square case, and most of them are still under investigation.

Our thanks to Victoria Lomasko for permission to reproduce her sketch here.

UPDATE. Amnesty International has just declared Mikhail Kosenko a prisoner of conscience, along with two other Bolotnaya Square defendants, Vladimir Akimenkov and Artyom Savyolov. More details here.