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Inhumane Treatment Practices

UN Deeming Treatment Practices “Cruel” & “Inhumane”

A recent United Nations (UN) report states that some treatments around the world and in the United States for patients suffering from substance abuse disorders and other psychiatric illnesses may be far from effective.[1] In fact, Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, reported to the UN in early March that practices often used to treat autism and substance abuse are “torture” and “cruel, inhumane, or degrading.”1

Torturous “Treatment”

TreatmentMendez singled out tactics, such as the disciplinary use of electric shock therapy, prolonged restraint, denial of maintenance medications, forced labor, and sexual abuse.1 For example, in Asia, some human rights organizations have reported that drug users and homeless people have been gathered by certain centers for “treatment.” This “treatment” included beatings, whippings, forced labor, sexual abuse, and public humiliation.1 Also, some were given electric shock therapy until they began having seizures.1 None of this is rehabilitation in the eyes of the UN.

Within the United States, the Judge Rotenburg Center (JRC) in Canton, Mass., which works mainly with autistic children, is under UN investigation for inhumane practices. They still use disciplinary use of electric shock therapy for mild violations, such as talking in class, and prolonged restraints that last full days.1 In December of 2012, the FDA sent the program a letter stating that electronic shock devices were no longer approved and must be removed—they have yet to be.1 At the same time, Medicare and Medicaid refused to pay for treatment received at JRC.1

Withholding Medicine for Treatment

Also, many treatment programs in the United States refuse patients medication maintenance for their addiction disorders, even though they are among the most effective treatments for heroin and addiction to other painkillers.1 Russia has banned maintenance medications completely, although they have shown to decrease the overall number of overdose deaths.1 American prisons also deny them often, with concern over patients selling them.1 All of these are violations of human rights.

Mendez also states in his report that the denial of pain treatment is torture.1 In fact, 83 percent of the world’s population does not have access to pain treatment for severe pain, even at end of life.1 This constitutes torturous situations.

This is the most powerful statement the UN has released regarding inhumane treatment practices.1


[1] Szalavitz, M. (2013, March 6). U.N. Report Suggests Some Autism & Addiction Treatments Are Akin to Torture. TIME Health & Family. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/06/u-n-report-suggests-some-autism-addiction-treatments-are-akin-to-torture/ Treatment.

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