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November 05, 2007
Mentally Ill in China Pushed into Brain Surgery as "Treatment"
Read more... Schizophrenia Related Subjects
A story recently published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) discusses brain surgeries that are being done on the mentally ill in China. According to the story many people living in China who suffer from mental health issues ranging from depression to schizophrenia are being treated with brain surgeries - an approach that has little or no support from scientific studies, and which is causing people even greater pain, suffering and financial loss.
The WSJ story begins with the example of a 25-year-old Chinese man named Mi Zhantao who recently underwent brain surgery at the recommendation of his doctors for depression and problems with socializing. Zhantao's doctors told him these were signs of schizophrenia; and so Zhantao's parents paid the required $4,800 for his brain surgery (the accumulation of four years' salaries for them). Sadly, instead of helping with Zhantao's symptoms, the operation left him with a "partially limp left arm and slurred speech."
The idea of brain surgery to treat schizophrenia or any other mental illness may seem unbelievable to residents of developed countries, but in China many physicians advocate this treatment. In fact, the hospital at which Zhantao was operated on which took place on the same day he first met his surgeon, Wang Yifang--hands out pamphlets with success stories of brain operations like Zhantao's and even has a hotline prospective patients can call with their problems.
The invasive surgery Zhantao underwent involved the insertion of a 7 and one-half inch long needle and the drilling of tiny holes in his skull. Further, and as part of the procedure, certain small areas of Zhantao's brain tissue thought to be responsible for his depression and socialization problems were then burned using the brain probe. Mr. Mi Zhantao's surgeon has performed close to 1,000 of these brain surgeries since 2004, when the No. 454 Hospital first began to offer them.
The irreversible brain surgeries performed at No. 454 Hospital, which are all but blacklisted for mental illness in the developed world, are being done across China...Some foreign doctors were shocked when told of the number of surgeries Dr. Wang has performed and the problems he was trying to treat. "It's completely off the charts. If he had done 10, it would be highly controversial," says Michael Schulder, president of the American Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. Such surgery involves locating and operating on specific targets in the brain.
The article goes on to say that the brain surgeries performed in China may be the result of the corrupt Chinese health care system in which doctors make the majority of their salaries from "bonuses tied to business they generate." The system thus becomes susceptible to abuse and in fact, according to Sun Bomin, director of functional neurosurgery at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, in the military hospitals of China, the brain center is thought of as a money generator. The lucrative nature of surgeries such as Mr. Mi's make them very profitable for the surgeons performing them.
Though the article states that China is currently trying to fix their health care system, for people like Mr. Mi, his parents and thousands of others who either underwent these controversial surgeries or are loved ones of those who did, word about the devastating effects of these surgeries can't spread quickly enough.
Posted by szwriter at November 5, 2007 12:24 PM
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