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Sat, Jan 22, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Patients escape alleged abuse at `black jail'

STAFF WRITER

Two former patients of the Lungfatang psychiatric care facility show the chains they claim were used to shackle them during their days at the Buddhist-run institution.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Four patients of Taipei's Lungfatang (龍發堂) psychiatric care hospital, who fled the facility, convened a press conference to accuse authorities at the facility of physical abuse.

Accompanied by psychiatrists and legislators, one of the former patients said they risked their life to escape the Buddhist-run asylum in the hopes that no more patients will be sent to what they called the "black jail."

"Some of us are stripped and tied to our beds with iron chains in the so-called `stockade' (禁閉室), where we are left to urinate without the least help; others are hit by bamboo sticks on the soles of their feet if they are not obedient," said another patient, describing abuse of patients at the facility.

Another patient claimed the asylum charges each patient's family NT$2.5 million, and asked the families to purchase statues of Buddha for NT$300,000 each or even sedan chairs for transporting gods that cost NT$500,000.

"Young female patients are summoned by the abbot, Shih Kai -fong (釋開豐), to his room for so-called `Buddhist treatment,'" a patient said. "Nobody knows what has happened in his room."

"Mental patients have the right to be treated humanely," said legislator Wang Hsueh-fong (王雪峰).

Legislator Yu Cheng-tao (余政道) called on the government to help resolve the problem.

In response, Master Hsinhsien (新賢法師) at the asylum denied the accusations adding the patients want to discredit the center and that they could not return.

Officials in charge of the facility have not yet responded publicly to the accusations, but Yu said Lungfatang officials plan to call a press conference today to answer the allegations.

An official at the Department of Health said yesterday that current laws are not able to regulate the facility, because the law only regulates medical organizations, while Lungfatang is a run as a religious institution.

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