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CCHR and Electroshock Survivors Reject Psychiatric Apology for Tortured Children

CCHR joins survivors of electroshock torture in NZ in condemning a very late apology issued by a psychiatric association, spanning half a century of neglecting the abuse endured. The group wants justice for victims of similar abuse in the U.S.

The U.S.-based Citizens Commission on Human Rights International joined former child victims of psychiatric electroshock torture in New Zealand in rejecting a very late apology from the local psychiatric association for failing to protect them.[1] The mental health industry watchdog has been at the forefront of the campaign to ban electroshock use and helped its chapter in New Zealand to expose the torture of children at the now-closed Lake Alice psychiatric institution in the 1970s. After more than 50 years, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) formally apologized last week to the survivors for the abuse they endured. Advocating for justice, CCHR demands a more sincere apology, rigorous accountability, and rightful compensation for the survivors not only in New Zealand but also for those brutally treated with electroshock in the U.S.

The RANZCP apologized for the “torturous actions carried out and directed by psychiatrist Selwyn Leeks,”[2] a member of the College who was responsible for electroshocking children without anesthetic, including to their legs and genitals.[3] Leeks died in 2022, aged 92.[4] Eleven months later, only then did the College posthumously rescind his fellowship with it.[5]

In 2021, the Lake Alice survivors were granted a Royal Commission—the highest form of government inquiry in New Zealand—to testify about the terror and trauma they still suffer from their 1970s treatment. In 2022, the Commission confirmed the hospital had been a place of misery, neglect, terror, fear and torment.[6] Despite the lapse in time, there are now recommendations that the survivors be adequately compensated.

Recent media reported, “Vulnerable children in the adolescent unit at Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital faced unimaginable abuse. They were drugged, punished with electric shocks and subjected to physical and sexual assaults.”[7]

Dozens of survivors and their supporters, including CCHR New Zealand’s director Mike Ferriss, heard from the RANZCP president Elizabeth Moore. Some of the survivors called the very late statement of professional regret “hollow lip service and a fairy tale apology.”[8]

In the full written apology released, the RANZCP wrote “We know the courageous attempts to raise concerns by young, vulnerable people detained at Lake Alice were ignored.”

CCHR says there is a growing trend for psychiatric associations to apologize for everything from psychiatrists’ role in the Holocaust euthanasia murders of mental patients and eugenics to racism. In January 2021, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued a formal apology for what it said was psychiatry’s “role in perpetrating structural racism” and that psychiatrists had subjected indigenous people to “abusive treatment, experimentation, victimization in the name of ‘scientific evidence,’….” APA said it had “historically remained silent on these issues.”[9]

In 2010, Prof. Frank Schneider, President of the German psychiatric association broke the society’s 70-year silence and apologized for Nazi psychiatrists who had forced patients “to be sterilized, arranged their deaths and even performed killings themselves.” Patients were killed in the gas chambers, from lethal doses of drugs or by prescribed starvation.[10]

Some psychiatric associations, however, have not been so forthcoming. For example, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which in 1997 investigated apartheid crimes, reported that the South African Society of Psychiatrists “did not play a proactive role in ensuring that the human rights of mentally ill people were upheld” during apartheid.[11] A UN report concluded that the society had resorted to “blatant falsehood in its defense of South African psychiatric care.”[12] Black patients were warehoused in privately owned institutions, electroshocked without anesthetic, and used for unpaid labor. According to a 1983 World Health Organization report, “This situation has no parallel in the history and present state of psychiatric care; it certainly does have a parallel in the ownership and trading of slaves.” The report further stated that “in no other medical field in South Africa is the contempt of the person, cultivated by racism, more concisely portrayed than in psychiatry.”[13]

CCHR says more than just apologies are needed and they must also be given without added platitudes about how conditions have “changed.” The RANZCP apology drew harsh criticism when it added, “We are committed to people receiving the best mental health care, guided by evidence and expertise” and “Now, psychiatrists work transparently and collaboratively, in teams, with supervision, and ongoing training and development.”

However, a recent WHO and United Nations guideline clearly shows there is ongoing abuse, stating: “Coercion remains a core component of existing mental health laws across jurisdictions and is a major concern.” Such practices include “involuntary hospitalization, involuntary medication, involuntary electroconvulsive therapy, seclusion, and physical, chemical and mechanical restraint.” These “violate the right to be protected from torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment….” and should be prohibited.[14]

To prevent such abuse, the guideline says access to justice is “essential to accountability.” Bypassing colleges and associations who may put reputation above protecting patients or admitting to their abuse, implementing the guideline would allow “persons interacting with mental health services to challenge human rights violations and enforce rights, including the right to an effective remedy…. Effective remedies also entail the duty to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible, to hold them to account, combat impunity and prevent repetition of violations.”[15]

In the meantime, CCHR continues to call for all electroshock treatment to be prohibited, with its most recent protest held on February 22 outside an American College of Psychiatrists’ convention held in New Orleans. Report abuse to CCHR.

About CCHR: CCHR was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and the late Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry. It has obtained over 190 laws to protect the rights of mental health patients, including the prohibition of dangerous psychiatric treatments with criminal penalties if administered.









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[12] “The Case for South Africa’s Expulsion from International Psychiatry,” United Nations Centre Against Apartheid report, May 1984

[13] “Apartheid and Health,” WHO report (Geneva) 1983, pp. 166-248



Contact Info:
Name: Amber Rauscher
Email: Send Email
Organization: Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Address: 6616 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028, United States
Phone: +1-323-467-4242

Source: PressCable

Release ID: 89122409

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