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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Human rights


New Chair: George Szmukler

I started to practice psychiatry as a trainee in 1972, having completed my medical degree and house jobs in Melbourne, Australia. Now retired from clinical work, I nevertheless continue with my academic interests. I am Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Society at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. I was previously a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, Medical Director of the Maudsley and Bethlem NHS Trust (1997-1999), joint Medical Director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (1999-2001) and Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London (2001-2006). I was also a visiting professor in the Department of Sociology (BIOS Centre) at the LSE (2006-2013), and an Associate Director of the NIHR Mental Health Research Network (2007-2015) with a special responsibility for Patient and Public Involvement – that is, involving service users and carers as collaborators in the conduct of research, not simply as participants.

Human rights issues, especially the use of state-sanctioned coercive powers in mental healthcare have troubled me throughout my career, and indeed did so before I ever embarked on it.

I have been a member of the College’s Special Committee on Human Rights for the past two years. I regard its work to be of fundamental importance to policies governing the practice of psychiatry and to its role in society. Its primary focus is national, though the College may also need from time to time to take a position on human rights abuses elsewhere when they impact on people with mental illness. I am delighted to have been appointed its Chair.

The Special Committee on Human Rights will do everything it can to support the College in its responses to challenges having significant human and civil rights implications.

Membership of the Special Committee on Human Rights

  • George Szmukler (Chair)
  • Anne-Laure Donskoy
  • Peter Hughes
  • Sujeet Jaydeokar
  • Carol Khan
  • Nicola Naven
  • Catherine Penny
  • Abdi Sanati
  • Su Sukumaran
  • Alex Till

Policy support provided by Zoé Mulliez.

The SCHR has prepared a ‘Questions and Answers’ document about the CRPD which may well be of interest to RCPsych members. It is available here.




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