Friday, December 26, 2008

Some mental health patients remain invisible

Violations of the human rights of psychiatric patients may not be as uncommon as I'd like to imagine them. On December 23, the Associated Press ran an item "Mental patients isolated for years despite laws" on the MSNBC web site. Virginia, Connecticut, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Massachusetts and Maryland were among the states listed to have put patients into long-term seclusion for lack of any other treatment alternatives.
Typically the patients are chronically violent. For instance, the story refers to Cesar Chumil, who has been in a three-room "containment suite" since 1993. He had 300 incidents of assaulting staff and another 100 of assaulting patients before going into confinement.
Simple isolation was not the most egregious encroachment on patients’ rights cited. Others involved long-term restraint: one man strapped to a bed for 2½ years in Florida, another tied to a bed for over a year in Connecticut.
The AP story opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions about behavioral management, staff biases, and physician perception.
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