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Psychiatrists and Psychologists Criticize Decision to Place Blogger who Spoke out against the Russian Orthodox Church in Psychiatric Hospital

16 May 2012 

Source: Open Information Agency 

Blogger and human rights defender Maksim Efimov. 
Photo provided to Open Information Agency by the civil activist himself

Experts: Placing a healthy person in a hospital will worsen his psychological condition. The conclusion of the judicial psychiatric expert commission of the Karelia Republic's Psycho-Neurological Health Centre concerning human rights blogger Maksim Efimov "cannot be deemed well argued, well founded or convincing, either with regards to the discrepancy between the results of, and the narrative of, these experts' conclusion or with regards to their recommendation that a second judicial psychiatric examination be conducted in hospital. 

This is the conclusion of Professor Vladimir Mendelevich, head of the Medical and General Psychology Department of the Kazan State Medical University, and Psychiatrist First Class with 32 years’ experience (including 15 years as a clinical psychologist), Оpen Information Agency's correspondent reports. 

Similar conclusions were reached by Vladimir Rubashny, the former head of the Psychological Agency of the Criminal Penitentiary System of Tatarstan, a psychologist of 18 years standing and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Interior Service, and by Viktor Gursky, psychiatrist, addiction psychologist and psychotherapist at the Nizhny Novgorod Clinical Psychiatric Hospital No.1, who has worked as a doctor for 28 years and psychotherapist for 19 years. All these three independent expert investigations were carried out on the initiative of the Agora Inter-regional Human Rights Association, which is representing Maksim Efimov's interests. 

Professor Vladimir Mendelevich noted that the Karelian experts had established that: "Efimov had never been examined by a psychiatrist in his life, never been under observation and never been registered at a psycho-neurological clinic. No psychiatrist had ever diagnosed him with a psychological illness or disorder." 

"On the one hand the experts did not discover any psychopathological disorders and on the other hand no personal deviations beyond the scope of individual, psychological and personal response characteristics. In other words, on the grounds of the examinations carried out he should be found psychologically healthy and this fact should be correspondingly reflected in the experts’ conclusion," Mendelevich stressed. 

In his examination Mendelevich also focussed on "the substantial contradictions in the expert commission's conclusion," "breaches of the principles and procedures for filing expert conclusions", and the fact that "the experts did not answer the specialist questions that had been set them", and also that "they unfoundedly avoided answering the question as to whether Efimov was able to correctly understand the important circumstances of the criminal case and give evidence regarding them."

"The description of his [Efimov's] individual and psychological traits is not strictly scientific. The paradox lies in the fact that not having described a single psycho-pathological symptom, the experts failed to draw the conclusion that they are not evident (as this would demand) and did not find Efimov mentally sane," said an astonished Dr. Mendelevich. 

Vladimir Mendelevich underlined that "the grounds of the findings and conclusions made by the expert commission should not be accepted as a justified recommendation for the need to appoint and carry out an obligatory judicial psychiatric examination of Efimov in the confines of a hospital ward." 

All three experts were of the opinion that the consequences of such an examination could have an extremely negative effect on the blogger and human rights worker Maksim Efimov. 

"One can surmise that in the context of the post-traumatic stress disorder that Efimov has gone through as a result of the criminal case brought against him, the search of his apartment, a judicial psychiatric examination carried out on him while confined in hospital could have a very negative psycho-traumatic affect and trigger certain psychiatric disorders," writes Professor Mendelevich. Vladimir Rubashny has drawn the same conclusion. 

"One can surmise with a great deal of likelihood that an examination while confined in hospital will worsen the condition of his psychological health," notes Psychiatrist Viktor Gursky. 

Readers will recall that on 12 May the Petrozavodsk City Court upheld the application of the investigation to confine Maksim Efimov, the author of the article "Karelia is tired of priests" and chair of the Karelian Youth Human Rights Group, to an in-patient ward for a judicial psychological and psychiatric examination. In the next few days human rights workers are planning to appeal against this decision on the grounds that it is unlawful and unjustified. 

The investigator applied to the court with a petition to have Efimov confined to an in-patient's ward on the basis of the conclusion of a judicial psychiatric expert commission, which came to the conclusion that: "In order to specify the actual condition and the degree of intensity of the personality disorder, Efimov needs to have a judicial psychological and psychiatric examination carried out on him while confined in hospital and the commission needs to be provided with supplementary information in the form of personal records from his place of work and study (including his post graduate studies) and interviews with his family and friends regarding his personality traits and his behaviour". 

Readers will recall that Efimov is suspected of "inciting hatred or enmity and likewise denigrating the dignity of groups of people on the grounds of their religion" (Article 282. Part 1 of the Criminal Code of Russia).