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The late psychiatrist and mental health reformer Franco Basaglia waged a tireless battle for legislation to transform Italy’s psychiatric institutions, leading to 1978’s “Law 180” – better-known as the “Basaglia Law” – that abolished and dismantled the country’s mental asylums and hospitals and regulated medical treatment for the mentally ill. It was to be the last of numerous battles fought by the activist-doctor, one of the most important intellectuals of his time. Written from 1953 until his death in 1980, Basaglia’s Essays reveal the nuances of his views on the issue and recount his struggle to emancipate thousands of institutionalized people from the scientific dogmatisms and practices of the time that reduced them to “non-persons”. Characterized by ongoing, intimate involvement with the psychiatric suffering of others, it was a struggle that forced an entire medical class to acknowledge the violent, political nature of any forceful intervention on human bodies.

Franco Basaglia (1924-1980) was an Italian psychiatrist and neurologist.