Letters: Drugs are not the whole answer, but they can yield excellent results
While I was looking for information about the use of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) in New Zealand I was reminded of Lake Alice and the legal case of former child patients.
Lake Alice was a psychiatric hospital (closed in 1999) in Rangitikei, north of Wellington. The hospital included a unit for children and adolescents, and it is the events at this unit in the 1970s, in particular the use of ECT and aversive electric shock treatment, that have made the hospital notorious. Ten years ago a number of former patients were awarded compensation, much of it eaten up by lawyers, but the case continues. You can read about the case here.
The psychiatrist responsible was Selwyn Leeks. He was first investigated in 1977 when allegations of abuse and mistreatment at the unit emerged, but was cleared. In the meantime he had moved to Melbourne, Australia, and continued practising as a psychiatrist. He retired…
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The year was 1976, and young Hake Halo was but one of more than 350 children being held and regularly tortured by the head psychiatrist and staff inside the Child and Adolescent Unit of New Zealand’s Lake Alice Hospital. Young Hake’s letter followed in the wake of an investigation of abuses by the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights. That inquiry and Halo’s letter marked the first steps in a long journey to justice for the children of Lake Alice, a trek that would span decades and end at the doorstep of the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Lake Alice psychiatric home – open for UN to investigate claims of abuse. Comments from John Edwards Wellington lawyer who has represented over 100 former patients and Paul Zentveld former Lake Alice patient who received compensation and is the founder of Survivors of Lake Alice.
In January the NT News in Australia ran a story with the title “16 Territorians given shock therapy without their consent”
“FEWER than 10 per cent of patients who received electroconvulsive therapy, formerly known as electro shock therapy (ECT), gave informed consent in 2014-15, according to a mental health expert. The Mental Health Review Tribunal approved 16 Territorians to receive the controversial treatment without patient consent in 2014-15.”
If 16 represents 90 per cent of the total number of people who received ECT in the Northern Territory 2014-15, then it means that just two people, out of a total of 18, consented to have the treatment in a year.
The Northern Territory has a population of under 250,000 people, so this does not represent a particulary low use of ECT. It is fairly similar, for example, to its use in Northern Ireland and Scotland. What is unusual is that nearly…
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