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Doctors Protest Psychiatric Manual Revision in Global Petition

May 15, 2013

Doctors are protesting new guidance for the diagnosis of some mental disorders, including autism, contained in the revised edition of a professional manual to be released in coming days.

The so-called “psychiatric bible,” whose first update in 19 years will be released at a medical meeting that opens in San Francisco on May 18, also influences the way patients are treated and reimbursed for mental disorders. A petition that raised concerns about the manual’s diagnostic categories and patient safety received more than 3,000 signatures from Paris to Montreal in recent months.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the standard used by mental-health professionals for diagnosing illness and for research. The newest edition is meant to incorporate the latest research findings and has collapsed several conditions, including Asperger’s syndrome and child disintegrative disorder, into a single autism diagnosis.

The new guideline “is really an example of psychiatric imperialism,” said Gordon Parker, Scientia Professor of psychiatry at Sydney-based University of New South Wales. It has “a flawed logic and a flawed model which leads to compromised research and also compromises management.”

Parker was speaking to reporters today with other Australian academics who commented on the changes. In March, a group of British mental-health professionals issued a petition against the changes, according to a release posted on the British Psychological Society’s website.

The manual known as DSM is the most widely used classification system globally, Michael Berk, professor of psychiatry at Melbourne’s Deakin University, said in an interview last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Natasha Khan in Hong Kong at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at

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