Top Soviet doctors, threatening to end cooperation on health research with United States, tried this week to force federal health officials to sign a joint denial that the Soviet Union punishes dissidents by putting them in mental hospitals.
The Soviet demands, which would have required the U.S. officials to disavow any connection with what the Soviets called "a propaganda campaign against Soviet psychiatry," was pressed here during four days of intermittent debate over renewal of a research cooperation agreement.
The negotiations ended yesterday afternoon after the Soviet officials withdrew their proposed by the U.S. negotiators. The five-year agreement says that both U.S. and Soviet health officials will continue cooperative research in several fields, including one limited area in mental health, schizophrenia.
The final agreement included only a brief statement on mental health. It said each side had its own views on "negative, non-scientific factors affecting cooperation," but scientists of both countries would continue cooperating "on the basis of mutual respect."
The Soviets had originally presented the U.S. delegation, headed by Dr. Julius Richmond, assistant secretary of health, education and welfare, and the U.S. surgeon general, with a proposed several-hundred-word joint statement. A text was obtained by THe Washington Post yesterday.
It would have had the "American side" pledging that no federal agency was engaging in "propaganda" against Soviet psychiatry.
"Both sides. . . Opposed deliberate use of mentally ill persons for politicalpropaganda directed at inciting distruct and discord . . ."
"The American side expressed understanding for the Soviet side." This statement came immediately after a lengthy exposition of the Soviet view that all charges that dissidents are jailed in mental hospitals are "groundless" and "slanderous fabrications.
"Both sides" agreed that former mental patients who emigrated - as some Soviet dissidents have done - would get necessary treatment, and American and Sovietdoctors would exchange information about them with "the preservation of medical secrecy guided exclusively by protecting" the patients' health.
One American official called the last clause an attempt, first, to brand some exiles as "patients" and, second, to prevent any statements that they really are sane.
"We rejected the whole thing, everything," one of the American negotiators - Dr. BerkleyHathorne, international activities officer in HEW's Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration - said of the Soviet proposal.
"We felt it was inappropriate, and we felt it was totally unacceptable." he said.
Another official said, "They were just trying to get us to agree with them that the accusations against Soviet psychiatry are unfounded. Of course they're not unfounded."
Still another said early yesterday afternoon, before the agreement was reached. "It's been a real brouhaha. We still don't know whether or not there will be an agreement,"
The Soviet attempt was triggered, as the Soviet's proposal acknowledged, by a 90-to-83 vote taken Sept. 1 by the General Assembly of the World Psychiatirc Association condemning the Soviet Union for "Sytematic abuse of psychiatry for political purposes."
The American psychiatric Association supported the action, though an American resolutionhad not mentioned the Soviet Union by name but the opposed such action to suppress dissent "wherever it occurs."
Dr. Jack Weinberg, American Psychiatric Association president, said the Soviets have consistently refused to let Western psychiatrists examine dissidents being held in Soviet mental institutions.
The U.S. Soviet cooperative health research was started in 1972 as part of President Nixon's detente. In total, it includes studies in cancer, heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, influenza and the environment, as well as the largely basic research in schizophre-nia.