HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Turkish Mental Hospitals: Problematic Treatments

Dr. Doug Mossman points to this New York Times article discussing the sad goings on among some mental health professionals in Turkey.  The Times reports,

Turkey's psychiatric hospitals are riddled with horrific abuses, including the use of raw electroshock as a form of punishment, according to a human rights report issued in Istanbul on Wednesday, just days before Turkey begins formal talks to join the European Union.

The report, by Mental Disability Rights International, a Washington-based group, came after several visits in the past year by the group's investigators to psychiatric hospitals and other facilities for people with developmental or mental disabilities.

While the report details many types of abuses, it said the most disturbing involved the use of electroconvulsive therapy without anesthesia to treat a wide range of illnesses in adults and children. The World Health Organization has called for a ban on "unmodified" or "direct" use of the treatment and states that children should never be subjected to it in any form.

The therapy, in which an electrical current is passed through the brain, was developed in the 1930's and continues to be used in mainstream psychiatry to treat a limited number of ailments. But it is normally administered with anesthesia and muscle relaxants.

Without them it can be painful, terrifying and dangerous. Patients can break jaws or crack vertebrae during the induced seizures. The report quotes a 28-year-old patient at Bakirkoy Psychiatric Hospital in Istanbul as saying, "I felt like dying."

The Health Ministry, which is responsible for psychiatric hospitals, said it had not yet read the report and declined to comment, other than to say that the director of the electroconvulsive therapy center at Bakirkoy denied administering unmodified electroshocks there.

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