N.Y. psychiatrist helped end definitionof homosexuality as a mental illness
作者: washingtonpost.com / 4380次阅读 时间: 2011年4月25日
标签: Freedman homosexuality 同性恋
www.psychspace.com心理学空间网N.Y. psychiatrist helped end definitionof homosexuality as a mental illness
April 22, 2011, 
washingtonpost.com

Alfred M. Freedman, a prominent New York psychiatrist who in 1973, as president of the American Psychiatric Association, played a key role in ending the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness, died April 17 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

He was 94 and died of complications from surgery to treat a fractured hip.

In April 1972, The Washington Post reported that the 15,000-member American Psychiatric Association had been taken over by "a group of young dissidents" who thought it was the APA's responsibility to speak out on the controversial social issues of the day, including racism, war, and treatment of gay men and lesbians.

Among the dissidents' allies was Dr. Freedman, a respected authority on substance abuse treatment who chaired the psychiatry department at New York Medical College and had co-authored a widely used psychiatry textbook.

He agreed to run for president of the association against a more conservative opponent - a member of what Dr. Freedman called the APA's "old boys' club" - and eked out a surprise victory, winning by three votes out of more than 9,100.

Chief among the issues dividing the APA was the association's policy toward homosexuality, which at the time was listed as a perversion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders II.

Activists inside and outside the APA agitated for a policy change, and Dr. Freedman enlisted Columbia University psychiatrist Robert Spitzer to head a task force studying the issue. When Spitzer proposed a resolution to stop calling homosexuality an illness, Dr. Freedman offered his hearty endorsement.

On Dec. 15, 1973, the resolution - which said that "homosexuality by itself does not necessarily constitute a psychiatric disorder" - was passed unanimously with two abstentions by the APA's board of trustees.

The board also professed support for civil rights legislation to protect gays from discrimination.

The APA's shift made front-page news in The Post and the New York Times. It became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement for gay and transgendered people. The National Gay Task Force called the move "the greatest gay victory" and said that "the diagnosis of homosexuality as an illness has been the cornerstone of oppression for a tenth of our population."

"We've won," a task force spokesman said at the time.

Critics requested a referendum, saying that Dr. Freedman and other board members had sneaked through an unpopular provision to satisfy radical gay activists. When the referendum was held several months later, 58 percent of the APA's members voted to support the new policy.

Alfred Mordecai Freedman was born Jan. 7, 1917, in Albany, N.Y., to immigrants from Poland. He graduated from Cornell University in 1937 and four years later received a medical degree from the University of Minnesota.

He accepted an internship at Harlem Hospital in New York but cut it short after Pearl Harbor to join the Army Air Forces. He served from 1942 to 1946 as a laboratory officer at stateside hospitals.

After the war, Dr. Freedman began a psychiatry residency at New York's Bellevue Hospital. He joined the New York Medical College faculty in 1960 and became the first full-time chairman of the psychiatry department. He became emeritus professor and chairman in 1988.

The school was based in impoverished East Harlem until the 1980s, and Dr. Freedman concentrated on addressing the neighborhood's high levels of alcoholism, drug abuse and crime. In addition to establishing drug treatment programs in the community and psychiatric wards at Metropolitan Hospital, he created a social and community psychiatry division within his department.

During his 1973 term as APA president, Dr. Freedman spoke out against the Soviet Union's use of psychiatric abuse of prisoners of war. Disgusted by the Watergate-era break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist, Dr. Freedman also became an advocate for privacy protection and the founding president of the National Commission on Confidentiality of Health Records.

Later in his career, he was a vocal opponent of the death penalty. With fellow psychiatrist Abraham Halpern, he worked to persuade the American Medical Association to enforce an ethical provision prohibiting doctors from participating in executions.

Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Marcia Kohl Freedman of New York; two sons, Paul Freedman of Pelham, N.Y., and Dan Freedman of Silver Spring; and three grandchildren.

Before taking its historic vote in 1973, the APA's board had edited the proposed resolution on homosexuality. Language describing homosexuality as a "normal variant of human sexuality" was struck.

The board also created a new psychiatric disorder, "ego-dystonic homosexuality," to describe gays emotionally troubled by their sexual orientation.

In 1987, the APA removed that category from its list of mental illnesses.

browne@washpost.com

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