The rights-based reform of the law relating to civil commitment in Poland began in the early 1970s on the heels of similar reforms in North America and Western Europe. Poland’s reformers aimed to advance the situation of ‘mentally ill’ people and prevent their social marginalization. This thesis examines the discourses of rights within Polish civil commitment reforms, and in their outcome, the Mental Health Protection Act, 1994 (MHPA). Although the MHPA provided civilly committed patients with more procedural rights, these rights-based reforms were grounded in liberal discourses of the 'rational subject', and in the premises of the capitalist market economy that relegate to an inferior status those incapable of engagement in contractual relations. Thus, reformers failed to challenge systemic sources of oppression and the exclusion of mentally ill people from the community of equal-rights bearers. As a result, the MHPA only mediates the worst symptoms of oppression, while perpetuating its causes.
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Thesis advisor: Ayers, Alison
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