Influential psychiatrist Robert Spitzer dies

Spitzer, who helped remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders, died at 83

Seattle: Dr Robert Spitzer a psychiatrist who played a leading role in establishing agreed-upon standards to describe mental disorders and eliminating homosexuality’s designation as a mental disorder died in Seattle. He was 83.

Dr Robert Spitzer
Dr Robert Spitzer

Spitzer died of heart problems, said his wife, Columbia University Professor Emerita Janet Williams. Dr Spitzer’s work on several editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM, defined all of the major disorders "so all in the profession could agree on what they were seeing," said Williams, who worked with him on DSM-III.

"Rather than just appealing to authority, the authority of Freud, the appeal was: Are there studies? What evidence is there?" Spitzer said in 2005. "The people I appointed had all made a commitment to be guided by data."

Dr Allen Frances, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University and editor of a later edition of the manual had said that Spitzer "was by far the most influential psychiatrist of his time."

Gay-rights activists credit Dr Spitzer with removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders in the DSM in 1973. He decided to push for the change after he determined that homosexuality could not be a disorder if gays were comfortable with their sexuality. During the psychiatric profession’s debate over homosexuality, Dr Spitzer said: "A medical disorder either had to be associated with subjective distress pain or general impairment in social function."

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