Obituaries

Alfred Freedman

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d3912 (Published 22 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3912
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. ns{at}europefn.de

Fought to declassify homosexuality as mental illness

During his long life, Alfred Freedman never wavered in his commitment to defend the basic human rights of all people, especially those affected by mental illness, physical disability, politically oppression, and financial disadvantage, and those from other minority groups.

“He was compassionate and friendly,” said Abraham Halpern, a long time friend who is now professor emeritus of psychiatry at New York Medical College. “But he did not retreat from controversy and he never hesitated to express his views regardless of how unpopular they might be.”

Conservative generation

But in 1972, when Freedman was asked by fellow younger, progressive psychiatrists to lead the battle against the older conservative generation by running for president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Freedman declined. Freedman, chairman of the department of psychiatry at New York Medical College, was a pragmatist: he saw no chance of winning.

High on the agenda of the rebellious younger generation was to remove the designation of homosexuality from the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II as a sexual deviation. Freedman’s colleagues, seeing him as the ideal candidate to lead the battle, eventually succeeded in convincing him to run. Out of 20 000 votes, …

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