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CHILDREN

Foster parents ‘hung boys from hooks’

The plight of three young brothers who were allegedly placed in sacks and hung from hooks in the attic of a foster home in central Sweden has led to charges against the couple in whose care the boys were placed following the death of their mother.

Foster parents 'hung boys from hooks'

The three brothers were two, four, and five-years-old respectively when they ended up on a farm run by a couple from Dalarna in April 2001.

But between March 2004 and August 2007, the three orphans were allegedly subjected to a range of cruel punishments by their foster parents, the details of which only began to emerge when the eldest brother related tales of horror to his new foster family in late 2007.

The boy, who by then was 11-years-old, burst into tears when his new foster mother wanted to talk to the boy after he had misbehaved.

“How am I going to be punished now?” screamed the boy, according to the Dala-Demokraten newspaper.

He then went on to provide chilling details of the torture-like punishment he and his two younger brothers suffered while on the farm.

In addition to being left hanging from hooks for hours without food or water, the three youngsters were also hung by their feet outside of a third story window, as well as forced to lie outside in the snow wearing only their underwear.

The indicted foster parents, a 42-year-old man and his 49-year-old wife, were arrested and detained in January 2008 and have now been charged with three counts of gross violation of integrity (grov fridskränkning), with an alternative charge of conspiracy to commit a gross violation of integrity.

The alternative charge stems from the boys’ claims that an older boy who was also staying on the couple’s farm also participated in the abuse.

The older boy, who has not been charged, denies the claims, although he admits to tying up the boys from time to time when the four played together.

The couple also denies the boys’ accusations, claiming they did their best to give the three lads a good home until they could find permanent placement.

“There is no basis for these charges,” said the 42-year-old man’s attorney to the Expressen newspaper.

“My client denies committing any crime. He has a hard time understanding how these children could come up with these stories.”

Following their time on the couple’s farm, the brothers were each placed in separate foster families, with each one eventually divulging details of the abuse independently, but in a way which corroborated the others’ accounts.

While the indictment is based almost entirely on the brothers’ testimony, investigators also uncovered evidence on the couple’s farm which strengthens the boys’ claims.

Among items found were handcuffs, nooses, as well as traces of fabric where the boys say they had been tied up.

Investigators also interviewed a witness who told of a conversation during which the indicted 42-year-old explained that the couple had taken in the three boys to earn extra money to help pay for his studies, but that the kids were so difficult that he never had a chance to take any classes.

The trial of boys’ former foster parents is set to begin on Thursday, with the court expected to hear testimony from brothers’ three sets of current foster parents about how the children suffered during their time on the couple’s farm.

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HEALTH

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study

Swedish researchers say acupuncture "appears to reduce crying" in babies suffering from colic.

Acupuncture could help your baby stop crying: study
File photo of a five-week old baby. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

But their work was criticized by colleagues in the medical field, with one calling the study methodology “appalling”.

A duo from Lund University's medicine faculty tested the traditional Chinese needle-piercing remedy in a trial involving nearly 150 babies between two and eight weeks old.

They reported their results in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, published by the BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal.

Compared to babies who did not undergo the needle treatment, infants who received acupuncture over two weeks exhibited “a significant relative reduction” in crying, the team found.

Such research can be controversial. Acupuncture is invasive, potentially painful, and its benefits are not universally accepted.

Organizations such as the British Medical Acupuncture Society says it is used to treat muscle and postoperative pain, as well as nausea.

But some think acupuncture's effects are that of a placebo, meaning people feel better because they believe it works. The National Institutes of Health, the main UN research agency, says there is “considerable controversy” around its value.

Colic affects as many as one in five families, and is diagnosed when a baby cries for more than three hours per day on more than three days per week.

Why it occurs is not well understood. Indigestion, trapped wind and intolerance to cows' milk have been identified as possible causes.

For the study, colicky babies were divided into three groups of 49. One received “minimal” acupuncture treatment, while another was given up to five 30-second needlings per session. The third group was not given any needle treatment.

“Significantly fewer infants who received acupuncture continued to cry/fuss excessively,” the researchers concluded.

This suggested “acupuncture may be an effective treatment option” for babies crying more than three hours a day.


File photo of an adult person receiving acupuncture. Photo: AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

Criticism of the study was harsh. David Colquhoun, a professor of pharmacology at University College London, described the researchers' analysis of data as “incompetent” and “appalling”.

The study “certainly doesn't show that it [acupuncture] works”, he told the Science Media Centre.

“What parent would think that sticking needles into their baby would stop it crying? The idea sounds bizarre. It is.”

Edzard Ernst from the University of Exeter said the study showed “almost the opposite of what the authors conclude”.

“We know that colicky babies respond even to minimal attention, and this trial confirms that a little additional TLC” – Tender Loving Care – “will generate an effect”.

A total of 388 acupuncture treatments were performed on the babies, the authors reported. On 200 occasions the infant did not cry at all after being pierced, 157 times they cried for up to a minute, and 31 times for more than that.

“The acupuncturists reported bleeding (a single drop of blood) on 15 occasions,” the authors said.

The treatment “may be considered ethically acceptable” if it managed to reduce excessive crying in the longer term, they added.

The report did not indicate what acupuncture points were used.

Article written by AFP's Mariètte Le Roux.