Deadly therapy

In a tragic footnote to last month’s story about the use of electroshock therapy to treat internet addiction in China, the authorities in that country are investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Deng Senshan, who was allegedly beaten to death by staff at a clinic in southern Guangxi province shortly after arriving for treatment for cyberaddiction.

Excessive use of the internet is regarded as a serious public health problem in China, with some reports estimating that nearly 40% of net users show signs of addiction, leading to a proliferation of centres dedicated to treating the problem. The more reputable clinics use modern psychological treatments, but other establishments are military-style camps offering a regime of harsh discipline, of questionable therapeutic value. Whatever one thinks the best course of treatment is, the fact that parents can be so desperate that they are willing to send their children to a place that promises “necessary approaches including punishment to educate the teenager” gives some idea of the level of distress that the condition can generate.

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