Letters to the Editor
Contributions Cited
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 18 page 41-41

Iread the Psychiatric News article in the August 6 issue on the China situation with interest and thought some additional background information would be helpful to our many members having deep concerns about this matter.

Dr. Abe Halpern, an APA member and distinguished life fellow, supported by the APA Commission on Global Psychiatry, now the APA Council on Global Psychiatry, initiated to the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) the first of many complaints from diverse sources around the world regarding the political abuse of Falun Gong practitioners by psychiatrists in China.

Very early on in the subsequent investigation of these complaints, the Standing Review Committee of the WPA carefully studied the works of Human Rights Watch China advocate Robin Munro. He has written extensively on the political abuse of psychiatry, with reference, among other issues, to forensic psychiatry in China.

Dr. Alan Stone, in writings published in the forensic psychiatry literature, disagreed with Munro, particularly on the matter of the systematic political abuse of the Falun Gong by forensic psychiatrists in China, of which there are, in fact, very few. The Standing Review Committee also carefully studied Dr. Stone's writings.

During the nearly five years of the WPA investigation, which was conducted with the cooperation of the Chinese Society of Psychiatry (CSP), the APA Commission/Council on Global Psychiatry received regular reports from the WPA and heard repeatedly from Falun Gong practitioners who are also APA members. I personally kept Dr. Rodrigo Muñoz, chair of the council, and Dr. Darrel Regier, executive director of the American Psychiatric Institute for Research and Education, apprised of the progress of the investigation, which they were monitoring for APA.

When negotiations had reached the point that the Chinese assented to on-site independent verification by a task force of the WPA, the president of the WPA, Professor Ahmed Okasha, requested that Dr. Alan Stone serve as one of its members. He was selected because of his detailed study and knowledge of the matter, because of his integrity, and because of his expertise as a world-renowned professor of psychiatry and law.

I personally invited Dr. Stone to a meeting of the Standing Review Committee of the WPA, which I chair and on which I have served throughout the entire investigation, and he made major contributions to our deliberations. After it became clear the Chinese had modified their stance on independent verification, Dr. Stone made suggestions critical to the compromise ultimately arrived at by the WPA and the CSP and was actively involved in the formulation of the joint agreement. This agreement was hammered out after four years of investigation and final negotiations at APA's annual meeting in New York earlier this year. Dr. Stone correctly predicted that the Chinese would accept this compromise in the face of my doubts.

This unprecedented agreement by the Chinese leaves the door open for using past examples of inappropriate diagnosis and treatment, identified by the Chinese, their critics, and the WPA, as a basis for educational approaches to dealing with these problems. There is agreement between the CSP and WPA that the WPA will conduct seminars and workshops on psychiatric diagnosis and forensic and ethical practices, toward the end of improving the quality of psychiatric patient care and preventing inappropriate psychiatric practices in China.

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