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Franco Basaglia (1924-1980)  

He is widely recognized as the charismatic leader of the democratic psychiatry movement in Europe. Basaglia was Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Padua (Italy) before he became director of the mental asylum at Gorizia in 1961 an later at Trieste, where he initiated with a group of students (Dr. Dell'Acqua and Dr. Norcio among them) broad changes that led to the eventual abolition of the mental hospital in Italy. Through his hospital work Basaglia came to understand madness as a human expression of undifferentiated human needs and as an oblique act of protest against a society that defined difference as a deviance. His political and social agenda involved decriminalizing mental illness and unmasking psychiatric expertise as a justification for exclusion and confinement. This radical view led to Basaglia's abolitionist stance vis-à-vis the mental asylum and to his insistence on alternative social and economic responses to the needs of the excluded community. Basaglia's idea spread throughout Europe through a broad-based professional and grass-root movement. The culmination of his effort was the passage of the far-reaching Mental Health Law 180 in 1978 which established, among other things, that all psychiatric treatment should be voluntary and which dismantled the old system of public asylums.

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