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The Soviet Union has made some progress toward correcting its political abuse of psychiatry, but not enough to warrant readmission into the World Psychiatric Association, says a US delegation that investigated the matter. The group, made up of psychiatrists and experts on Soviet human rights, visited Soviet psychiatric hospitals earlier this year and interviewed 15 current and 12 former patients whom the delegation believed were political dissidents. Five of those hospitalized did not need to be there, the US team concluded. Seventeen other patients that the delegation had requested to interview were discharged either before or during the March visit.

`` ... A timid start has been made to reform,'' Peter Reddaway, an expert on the subject and a delegation member, testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill, ``but it has been imposed on a resistant, hostile, and defensive MoH (Ministry of Health) by politicians who have been able at times to mobilize certain journalists and lawyers in their support.''

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As long as certain key figures remain in position - including Minister of Health Yevgeny Chazov and Alexander Churkin, the ministry's chief psychiatrist - the prospects for further change are ``extremely limited,'' Professor Reddaway continued. He found that some psychiatrists were not aware of new laws passed in January 1988 designed to prevent abuse.

The delegation recommended that a Soviet delegation of psychiatrists visit US facilities; that the US delegation make a follow-up visit to the USSR; and that both countries coordinate exchanges of psychiatrists and of data. And, it added, frank and open criticism of Soviet psychiatric practices should continue.

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