Mental health drugs 'like lobotomies'

The Age, Ausralia/July 9, 2007

The controversial Church of Scientology likens modern mental health drugs to torture and lobotomies.

The church's opposition to psychiatric drugs became central to a brutal murder case in Sydney on Monday when it was alleged in court that a 25-year-old woman charged with stabbing her father and sister to death and seriously injuring her mother was denied mental health treatment because of her parents' belief in scientology.

Bankstown Local Court was told the woman had been diagnosed with a psychotic illness in 2006 but her parents allegedly denied her access to the appropriate treatment.

The church, which includes Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its high-profile followers, says psychiatry undermines religion by treating the human soul as physical.

The church does not believe drugs can cure mental illness, proclaiming in its creed that "We of the Church believe that the spirit can be saved and that the spirit alone may save or heal the body".

Scientology believes people should not be labelled and treated with "brutal" cures, including drugs, which it says have no scientific basis.

It says drugs are the modern version of psychiatric treatment which has developed over the years from torture in restraint chairs and cages, to insulin shock, electroconvulsive therapy and prefrontal lobotomies.

"Today it is drugs," its website says.

"The reason is obvious. Drugs are more palatable to the public than 220 volts of electricity or an applecored brain and a lot more profitable by billions of dollars a year."

Although scientology has a strong objection to the use of anti-depressant drugs which it says are "prescribed like candy", a spokeswoman said the church would never interfere with an individual's medical treatment.

"We would encourage them to see a medical doctor and get a proper diagnosis," spokesperson Vicki Dunstan said.

"The church would tell the person to follow the medical advice of a doctor, we would never interfere with the advice of a doctor. That's between the parishioner and the doctor.

"Any scientologist would have to make their own judgment on that.

"We don't interfere with parishioners' lives to that extent."

Ms Dunstan said the church had no knowledge of the woman and never had contact with the family.

"I don't think the family are scientologists ... the church had no knowledge of the family and never had contact with the family," she said.

The Church of Scientology was established by American writer L Ron Hubbard in 1954 and now has more than 4,300 churches around the world.

Although many governments recognise the church as a legitimate religious organisation, it is still treated with scepticism by many critics who claim it is a commercial operation which milks funds from its members.

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