News & AnalysisPsychosurgery

Chinese Neurosurgeons Quietly Push for Easing of Brain Operation Ban

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Science  15 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6027, pp. 294
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6027.294

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Concerned about reports that many psychiatric patients were not benefiting from psychosurgery, or were even suffering irreparable harm, China's health ministry issued a regulation in 2008 that limits brain surgery to a few conditions for which it is recognized as a last resort. Experimental applications, such as stereotactic ablation for schizophrenia, are forbidden. The problem, scientists say, is the absence of international guidelines. At a World Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery meeting last month, researchers and neurosurgeons sought to clarify which brain operations for psychiatric conditions should be allowed and which should be experimental or off-limits. The consensus forged at the meeting—the first such forum since the 1970s—may encourage the health ministry to revise its psychosurgery guidelines. But unscrupulous clinics are casting a shadow on the practice in China.

* Wang Xiao is a writer in Shanghai.

  • * Wang Xiao is a writer in Shanghai.