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Brain surgery for drug addicts banned
Updated: 2005-04-18 08:32

Brain surgery will not resume in Chinese hospitals as a treatment to cure drug addicts, said Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qun'an.

The ministry will not resume the surgery until a comprehensive and scientific evaluation is given to the safety and effectiveness of the practice and a technical standard is established, the spokesman said in Beijing.

According to Mao, brain surgery to curb drug cravings is a special medical practice. Hospitals and doctors who perform the operation, as well as the equipment, environment and post-surgery observation, must be qualified and standardized.

However, as the qualification and standard has not been formulated yet, the surgery is not allowed to be used as a mass clinical treatment, he said.

"It can only be done for experimental studies at the moment," said Mao.

Brain surgery was suspended on November 2 last year by the ministry because of disputes over its unidentified side effects among medical experts. Evaluation and argument of the operation have continued ever since.

According to Qi, last month, the ministry held a special meeting on this topic in Shaanxi Province, on which vice minister Jiang Zuojun said in a message he hoped the relation and division of clinical study and clinical implementation of the brain surgery can be worked out, and a comprehensive review, evaluation and research can be made for the future of the practice.

At that meeting, experts of mental, ethical as well as neural fields reached the following consensus: that the brain surgery is still in the phase of clinical studies and cannot be used in clinical service; that the current materials show the short-term effects of the brain surgery are comparatively good, but long-term effects are still unclear, which need further scientific studies; that the studies must be done in those hospitals that have a relatively good capability; that the ministry is going to set up a supervising team to verify materials and formulate a qualification standard.

Meanwhile, Qi Guoming, chief of the ministry's science and education department, said before the ministry carries out a scheme and regulation for the clinical studies of brain surgery, any medical unit cannot perform the surgery in the name of clinical study or service.

Brain surgery to cure drug addiction was banned in Russia in 2002 after a patient claimed he had suffered headaches. It also failed to cure him of his addiction, according to a news report.

When the procedure was suspended, about 500 patients had received the surgery in China. Most reported positive results, but some experienced abnormal symptoms, such as the loss of sex drive.

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