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Abusive Treatment Methods for Persons with Mental Disabilities

A large part of the ministry of our Lord focused on persons with mental disabilities. Such persons are children of God and, therefore, our brothers and sisters within God's family. The full and equal rights of persons with mental disabilities are enshrined in the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church.

Yet the use of abusive treatment methods as "therapy" for persons with mental disabilities still occurs. Such abusive treatment methods are used both on adults and children, and programs that rely on such abusive treatment methods are often funded by tax revenues. A number of organizations that advocate for persons with mental disabilities have already taken a stand against abusive treatment methods.

The United Methodist Church joins in affirming the right of persons with disabilities to freedom from abusive treatment methods. We oppose the use of any form of punishment for children or adults with mental disabilities in any case where such punishment would be considered illegal, abusive, or unconscionable if applied to a child or adult who is not disabled. In particular, we condemn as unacceptable the following practices:

1. treatment methods that result in physical injury or tissue damage to the person;

2. verbal abuse or insult, humiliation, or degradation;

3. prolonged isolation from others;

4. denial of food, warmth, hygiene, contact with other human beings, or other necessities of life;

5. the use of electric shock or noxious substances as a form of punishment;

6. the use of any punishment on a child with a mental disability that would be considered child abuse if used on a child with no disabilities;

7. neglect;

8. the misuse of physical or chemical restraint; and

9. the threat of any of the above treatments.

Any therapy used in the treatment of persons with mental disabilities must be potentially beneficial to the person. As an alternative to abusive treatment methods, we support the use of positive approaches in the treatment of persons with mental disabilities. Positive approaches affirm the humanity of these persons and recognize that the needs and desires of such persons are not significantly different from those of other persons. Our obligation to persons with mental disabilities is to support and assist them in their efforts to live lives as rich and rewarding as possible.

We call upon all public and private agencies and service providers involved in treating persons with mental disabilities to adopt and uphold the standards set forth in this resolution.

We call upon United Methodist Church-related institutions and agencies, including hospitals, homes, schools, and universities, to adopt and uphold the standards set forth in this resolution and to support research on positive treatment methods.

We call upon governments at all levels to end immediately the expenditure of public revenues on any agency or program that fails to adopt and uphold the standards set forth in this resolution.

The United Methodist Church declares itself to be open to persons with mental disabilities and their families, and the church commits itself to support such persons and families and to accommodate their needs within our community. We further pledge our support to help persons with mental disabilities and their families find appropriate services, programs, and supports, and to protect them from abusive treatment methods.

Resolution #3301, 2008 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
Resolution #120, 2004 BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS
Resolution #108, 2000BOOK OF RESOLUTIONS

See Social Principles, ¶ 162I.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2012. Copyright © 2012 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.