Thursday, 15 September 2011

new treatments for children are bad medicine

Martin Beckford writes in the Daily Telegraph that "children who are shy or unhappy risk being diagnosed with mental disorders and being given powerful drugs" because of changes to the way in which problematic behaviour in children can be medicated.

This is worrying – during the Blair years, medicalization of social and familial problems ran riot. It was an extension of the totalitarian assumption that if x is in a position of authority and disagrees with y, it follows that there is something wrong with y: one hears echoes of the USSR hospitalising dissidents for "treatment" of their disordered views.

Is the comparison extreme? No: both positions stem from the Enlightenment conceit that humankind is perfectible solely by reference to itself. This same error informs the assumption underpinning such man-made catastrophes as the Holocaust, factory-efficient abortion and assisted suicide. Behind each phenomenon was an idea that its execution would improve humanity somehow.

All around us we see ostensibly therapeutic programmes gone badly wrong because the basic tenet, everybody at whom the programmes are aimed have the same good intentions as those who designed them, is flawed. European human rights legislation’s predominant use seems to be keeping foreign criminals in Britain so they can have a family life; risk-based health and safety practice most infamously prevented PCSOs from rescuing a drowning boy.

Or look at child protection: poor Peter Connelly (Baby P), for example, exhibited textbook abuse markers you can learn to recognise in a half-day course, but was sacrificed at the altar of diverse family arrangements. Now it seems that children who are old enough to complain about abuse may be further abused by a medical establishment indebted to big pharma and discredited thinking whose latest manifestation is the diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder. Kafka would consider it stranger than fiction.

Tony Urquhart
300 words

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