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Basaglia, Franco

Franco Basaglia (1924-1980) was a Venetian psychiatrist whose name is permanently associated with Law 180 - the Italian Mental Health Act of 1978 that is also known as the Basaglia Law. The Basaglia Law contained directives for the closing down of all psychiatric hospitals and their gradual replacement with community-based services. It has acted as a model for reform within other countries including Brazil. In 1961, while working as the medical director of a large mental hospital in Gorizia (a town on the remote borders between Italy and Yugoslavia), Basaglia assembled a group of colleagues who were interested in non-traditional practice. Reform was achieved by following simple steps to humanize both the environment and the way in which patients were treated and later included activities such as daily assemblies - used to resolve conflicts and tensions or make collective decisions - in which patients and staff participated non-hierarchically. Basaglia argued that stereotypically ‘lunatic’ behaviours were a consequence of oppressive institutional conditions, with the traditional psychiatric hospital acting as an oppressive ‘total-institution’. Basaglia’s report, The destruction of the Mental Hospital as a place of institutionalisation was presented at First International Congress of Social Psychiatry in London in 1964. A collective publication L’istituzione negata (‘The Institution Denied’) was published in 1968. Edited by Basaglia, it analyzed and documented the Gorizia experience and significantly influenced debate concerning other institutional forms, such as factories, universities and schools. To date, 'The Institution Denied' has not been published in English translation.

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