FRANCE: Torturous practice against children with autism spectrum disorder

Summary: The practice of “packing therapy" involves wrapping a child in a cold, wet sheet or towel and leaving the child unable to move in it for almost hour.

[23 February 2012] – Disability Rights International (DRI) calls on the French government to end the barbaric and archaic practice of “packing therapy” – a so called treatment for children diagnosed with autism – and children with psychosis – treated in psychiatric and educational facilities managed by the French Ministry of Health across the country.

Either naked or clad in underwear only, packing involves wrapping the child’s entire body in wet, refrigerated sheets or towels, with only the head exposed, and rendering it impossible for the child to move. Children are kept in this state for almost an hour. Typically the packing sessions are repeated several times a week and can continue for months, sometimes without parents’ consent. Despite the absence of scientific evidence supporting their claims, therapists argue that packing reinforces talk therapy in an effort to “cure” the child of his or her “affliction.”

Wet sheet packs – along with bloodletting, lobotomies, inducing epileptic seizures and comas – were used in psychiatric hospitals across US and Europe to cure “madness” until the mid 20th century.

“The cruelty perpetrated against children forced to endure such a procedure is psychological and physical abuse couched in the name of treatment, and is a violation of basic human rights,” stated Laurie Ahern, President of DRI.

“The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which has been ratified by France, prohibits torture without exception – even if it takes place in a school or medical establishment and is justified by authorities as a form of treatment,” said Ahern.

And according to the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, “By reframing violence and abuse perpetrated against people with disabilities as torture or a form of ill treatment, victims and advocates can be afforded stronger legal protection and redress for violations of human rights.”

To sign the petition to end this barbaric practice, click here.


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