Jolijn Santegoeds – Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited

https://tekeertegendeisoleer.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/why-forced-psychiatric-treatment-must-be-prohibited/

Translation of Dutch article “Waarom gedwongen GGZ behandeling verboden moet worden”

Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited
29 March 2016, by Jolijn Santegoeds, founder of Stichting Mind Rights[1], Co-chair of World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (WNUSP)[2], board member of European Network of (Ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP)[3]

Click here to download the article:
Why forced psychiatric treatment must be prohibited_29 March 2016

 

For centuries there has been resistance against forced admission in institutions, confinement in isolation cells, tying persons up with fixation-straps, the forced administration of medication, forced electroshocks, and other forced psychiatric treatments.

Coercion is not care
Coercion is one of the most horrific things that people can do to each other, while good care is actually one of the best things that people can offer to each other. There is a fundamental difference between coercion and care.

Coercion works countereffective to wellbeing, and leads amongst others to despair, fear, anger and grief for the person concerned. During coercion the voice of the person is ignored, and their boundaries are not respected. Coercion does not lead to more safety, or recovery of mental health. On the contrary: By suffering, powerlessness, and a lack of support, the risks for increasing psychosocial problems and escalation increase. Coercion is the opposite of care.

Coercion means a lack of care
Forced psychiatric interventions are not a solution, but are a problem for mental health care. For a long time, the existence of forced treatments, which enables caregivers to turn their back to the crisissituation and leave the person behind without actual support, is undermining the real development of good care practices.

Good care is possible
Good care can prevent coercion. By a respectful attitude and good support, problems and escalation can be prevented successfully, which makes coercion obsolete[4]. Real care is possible.

Efforts are needed
Despite the fact that all stakeholders in Dutch mental health care want to ban coercion[5], the total number of the use of coercion (the number of  legal measures RM and IBS) is rising annually. There are however specific initiatives to reduce coercion at various locations, such as the development of HIC (High/Intensive Care psychiatry)[6], where they aim to prevent solitary confinement by enabling intensive support. On the other hand there is an enormous rise in outpatient coercion (conditional measures), as well as in incidents with “confused people”. It has been concluded a number of times, that the practices are “persistent”, and that the culture is “hard to change”.

Learning from history
Europe has a long history of xenophobia against persons with psychosocial problems. Ever since the 15th century there have been special prison-like “madhouses”, where persons were chained and locked up like beasts, and exorcisms were common. After the discoveries of Charles Darwin and the Renaissance (17th and 18th century), the medical sector started to arise, followed by the arrival of the first Dutch Lunacy-law in the 19thcentury, which arranged “admission and nursing of lunatics in mental hospitals”, with the goal to provide “more humane” care as compared to the madhouses. The young medical science comprised a diversity of perceptions, and in the 20th century a lot of experiments followed, such as hot and cold baths, lobotomy, electroshock and so on. The “special anthropology”[7] or racial-science and eugenics, focussed on the search for the perfect human being, and “racial hygiene” to “avoid deterioration of the race”, openly doubting the capacities of certain populations, which resulted in genocide which didn’t spare psychiatric patients (WOII).

After these dark pages in history, universal declarations of human rights were established, emphasizing the value of each human being, and gradually the community became more tolerant. However, psychiatry hardly changed and held on to the questionable and experimental foundation, with confinement, regulation regimes, and experimental treatment methods as the unchanged core of the treatment range. Currently, efforts are still made to force persons into behavioural changes with the argument that they are “incapable of will” themselves, and not able to express preferences. This is absolutely incorrect: Every person sends signals. The challenge is to deal with that in a good way. Real care notices the person behind the behaviour. Professional care is something totally different than primitive repression of symptoms.

It is time to draw a line. It is urgently needed to recognize that mental health care got on a wrong track by history. Harsh ‘correction’ of persons until they are found ‘good enough’ is not a righteous goal of mental health care. It should be about wellbeing. Coercion is a revealed mistake of mental health care. Innovation is needed.

Worldwide need for coercion-free care
All over the world forced treatment exists. Extremely atrocious images are known from poorer parts of the world, with chained people for example in Asia[8] and Africa[9], but also in our own country with Brandon[10] and Alex[11]. As long as the western world keeps claiming that coercion is the same as good care, these scenes will be harder to ban, especially since several countries have high expectation of the western approach. It is important to come up with good solutions in the world wide search for coercion-free care.

Call by the United Nations
Since 2006, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)[12]exists, which illustrates that a worldwide change is needed towards persons with disabilities. Several UN mechanisms clarify that coercion in care is a violation of human rights[13][14][15][16], also when it comes to the Netherlands[17][18]. A change is needed.

What’s next?
This is an important question.
What do we want now? Are we finally going to make it really right?
Are we going to show ourselves from our best sides?

A real change of culture is needed. Mental health care needs to reinvent itself, and put an end to the confinement and the use of coercion. Good care is possible.

“Yes but it is not possible…”
Commonly heard reactions are “These are good ideals, but not realistic” or “There is no other way, because the system isn’t supportive” or “The community is totally not ready for this”. The implicit assumption that a culture change would be ”unrealistic”, indicates limited perspective, hope and ambition. The system is in our hands. We are the current generation. Change is possible. The world is changing constantly. Also mental health care can change[19][20], as can the public opinion. We are not powerless or insensitive. Efforts are needed to make the world better and nicer together. We can do that.

Change can feel scary. Without positive history or good practices elsewhere it may be a bit harder to imagine that everything can be different, but this cannot be a reason to just give up immediately. We do not question ourselves whether stopping all hunger in the world is realistic before we start with that. Every person counts. Real care is possible and needs to be realized, also in acute and complex crisis situations. Practices of abuse need to stop instantly. This is the task that has been given to our generation. It is worth to unite all our efforts to make the historical shift from exclusion to inclusion.

Also the remark “Yes but coercion is needed, as long as there are no alternatives”  needs to be refuted here. Coercion is not care, but it is abuse, and there is no valid excuse for abuse. Coercion is never needed. Good care is needed.

Making human rights a reality
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) gives a momentum for change. If everyone cooperates now, throughout all layers of the system, then the intended change gets an unprecedented impulse. The articles of the UN-Convention offer a guidance, which enables worldwide coherent action. The UN Convention offers vast opportunities to change the world.

Together we can ban forced psychiatric treatments. When there’s will, there’s a way. In history, confinement was put central, and by now we know better. So we have to do better too. A largely unexplored world is ahead of us.

Key points
It is not easy to change the mental health care system, and the confidence in mental health care doesn’t restore without efforts. Several things are necessary to change the situation sustainably:

-Realise good care
The old fashioned psychiatry is not founded on human rights, diversity and inclusion, but on xenophobia and exclusion. Science has focussed so far on homogenising the community, and attempts to change the people (a bodice and check box mentality). Modern mental health care should focus on enabling a heterogeneous and  diverse community, by creating the right conditions in the community and to enable self-determination, liberty and inclusion, so that everyone can be happy and live a fulfilling life in our community. A fundamental reform is needed in mental health care.

Wellbeing – or mental health – is a very personal intrinsic value, which cannot be produced by coercion. Recovery from psychosocial problems is not an isolated process of the person concerned, but is closely intertwined with the social context of the person, such as chances in life, social acceptance and inclusion. The range of care needs to be reviewed fully, and adapted to the requirements of today.

Deprivation of liberty needs to be stopped immediately. The organization of care of good quality is necessary and urgent, and cannot be postponed any longer. The previous guidelines under the law BOPZ of 1994 to use coercion “as little as possible” and “as short as possible” have failed obviously, and the numbers on the use of coercion (legal measures RM and IBS) continuously keep on rising annually, and have more than doubled in the past 10 years. This trend is unacceptable, and therefore something really needs to change now. A need for support cannot be a reason for deprivation of liberty. Good care is possible.

Without good care, the mess will only transfer. It is absolutely necessary to make all possible efforts right now to provide care of good quality, including good care in crisis situations.

– Legislation: prohibit coercion, arrange care
The legislation on forced psychiatric treatments needs to be changed. The goal of mental health care is not: Treating vulnerable persons in a rough way, but the goal is to provide good care, also in crisis situations. A transition is needed.

The lunacy law dates from 1841, from a time when the medical profession was absolutely in it’s infancy. The law BOPZ of 1994, and also the law proposal on Mandatory Mental Health Care (recent) have a similar structure of legal measures RM and IBS, and resp. confinement and forced treatment form the core. This system is not founded upon awareness of human rights, and it is not about care of good quality, and it has to change.

Forced treatment is abuse. Legislation needs to protect all citizens from abuse. When the government participates in the abuse against certain groups, this is torture[21][22], which is absolutely prohibited. The laws on coercion, such as BOPZ and the law proposal on Mandatory Mental Health Care are therefore unacceptable.

Legislation is meant to offer a fair framework for the community. A prohibition of forced treatments is necessary because of human rights[23]. Additionally, certain legislation can speed up the provision of good care and organize innovation[24]. It is possible to create laws that are really useful to the community. Wouldn’t that be great?

– Compensation: Recognize the seriousness
For years and years, the government and countless caregivers have taken over the lives of psychiatric patients, and forcefully subjected them to “care”, such as horrible forced treatment, isolation cells, forced medication, restraint-belts, electroshocks, all motivated by so-called “good intentions”. The sincerity of those responsible can now prove itself by genuine recognition of the suffering that many had to endure. A compensation would be appropriate: When you break something you have to pay for it. We consider that very normal.

* Apologies are needed to recover the relation between (ex-) users and caregivers.
* Recognition of the trauma’s by coercion, and support in overcoming these if desired.
* Compensation to show that the change of attitude is genuine.

Now it’s time to show that the Netherlands is indeed a civilized country.

Take action
I would like to call on everyone to contribute to the change in culture. Let’s ensure together that human rights will be realized for every human being, and that old-fashioned psychiatry disappears, and that mental health care only comprises good care.

Please spread this message to raise awareness.

 

**

To reinforce the above plea, I have attached a description of my personal experiences with forced psychiatry, which can be found via this link:

“16 years old, depressed and tortured in psychiatry – A testimony on forced psychiatric interventions constituting torture and ill-treatment”

 

**

This publication is part of the ‘Absolute Prohibition Campaign’, see https://absoluteprohibition.wordpress.com

 

[1] Actiegroep Tekeer tegen de isoleer! / Stichting Mind Rights www.mindrights.nl

[2] WNUSP: World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry www.wnusp.net

[3] ENUSP: European Network of (Ex-) Users and Survivors of Psychiatry www.enusp.org

[4] Report: Best practices rondom dwangreductie in de GGZ 2011

[5] Declaration on reduction of coercion:  Intentieverklaring GGZ: preventie van dwang in de GGZ 2011

[6] High Intensive Care HIC (HIC)

[7] Description of Racial-science e.a.: Winkler Prins Algemeene Encyclopaedie, vijfde druk, Elsevier, 1936

[8] Human Rights Watch “Living in hell – abuses against people with psychosocial disabilities in Indonesia”, 2016

[9] Robin Hammond, fotoserie “Condemned – Mental health in African countries in crisis”

[10] Brandon van Ingen, Jongen al 3 jaar vastgebonden in een zorginstelling

[11] Alex Oudman, Schokkende beelden uit isoleercel – Toen en nu

[12] UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

[13] CRPD General Comment no. 1 on CRPD article 12 Equal Recognition before the law

[14] CRPD Guidelines on CRPD article 14 Liberty and Security of Person

[15] Statement of 2 UN Special Rapporteurs “Dignity must prevail – an appeal to do away with non-consensual psychiatric treatments” World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2015

[16] A/HRC/22/53 Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, Torture in health care settings (2013)

[17] Communication sent to the Kingdom of the Netherlands by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health. AL Health (2002-7) G/SO 214 (53-24) NLD 2/2013, October 2013, https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/24th/public_-_AL_Netherlands_08.10.13_(2.2013).pdf

[18] CAT/C/NLD/CO/5-6, CAT Concluding Observations on the Netherlands

[19] High Intensive Care HIC (HIC)

[20] Intensive Home Treatment (IHT)

[21] Torture, for full definitiion see article 1 CAT, Convention Against Torture.

[22] A/HRC/22/53 Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E Mendez, Torture in health care settings (2013)

[23] amongst others the right to liberty, freedom from torture / Civil and political rights and CRPD

[24] amongst others the right to health care and adequate standard of living / Social, economic and cultural rights and CRPD

 

ENUSP -Forced psychiatric interventions constitute a violation of rights and disable care

Human rights context

Since 2006, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) calls for a paradigm shift to break away from paternalistic laws and paternalistic attitudes towards persons with disabilities, and shift to respectful support of decision-making based on the person’s own will and preferences. The implicit call of the UN CRPD to put an end to forced psychiatric treatments has been made explicit by several publications of the CRPD Committee, and especially by the Guidelines to Article 14. The Guidelines make clear that the detention of persons with psychosocial disabilities under domestic legislation on the grounds of their actual or perceived impairment and supposed dangerousness to themselves and/or to others “is discriminatory in nature and amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”[1]

 

Nevertheless, two UN treaty bodies currently are in conflict with the standards set by the UN CRPD: the Human Rights Committee[2] and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) in their document “Rights of persons institutionalized and medically treated without informed consent”. Yet the Human Rights Committee admits that forced measures are harmful: “The Committee emphasizes the harm inherent in any deprivation of liberty and also the particular harms that may result in situations of involuntary hospitalization.” [3] The Human Rights Committee even recommends States parties “to revise outdated laws and practices” and says that “States parties should make available adequate community-based or alternative social-care services for persons with psychosocial disabilities, in order to provide less restrictive alternatives to confinement.” However, despite this, the Human Rights Committee acknowledges the possibility of forced measures, provided they are applied “as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be accompanied by adequate procedural and substantive safeguards established by law.”[4]

Also the SPT allows forced commitment and forced treatment, but they go even further by saying that abolition would violate the “right to health” and the “right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment”. For instance, the SPT states “…placement in a psychiatric facility may be necessary to protect the detainee from discrimination, abuse and health risks stemming from illness”[5], “The measure [treatment without consent] must be a last resort to avoid irreparable damage to the life, integrity or health of the person concerned…”[6]. In addition, the SPT acknowledges restraints as a legitimate measure: “Restraints, physical or pharmacological … should be considered only as measures of last resort for safety reasons”[7], and further allows for “medical isolation”[8].

It is interesting to note that before the publication of these two documents mentioned above, the thematic report “Torture in Health Care Settings” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/HRC/22/53), urged an absolute ban on forced psychiatric interventions, in order to ensure that persons with psychosocial, intellectual and other disabilities be free from torture and ill-treatment. However his voice apparently was not heard, as well as other voices documenting numerous violations of human rights in psychiatric institutions. One of them is the report of FRA issued in 2012, which reveals the trauma and fear that people experience, and states that “the extremely substandard conditions, absence of health care and persistent abuse have resulted in deaths of residents in institutional care.”[9]

 

Therefore, it can be seen that the arguments in favour of the administration of forced measures are based on false grounds, because as has been proven by numerous sources, including CPT reports and the sources mentioned above, psychiatric institutions in no case can be considered a safe haven from discrimination, abuse, torture and ill treatment. With regard to medical considerations and care we put forward the following:

 

Forced psychiatric interventions are not care.

Care is supposed to result in improved well-being and recovery. Well-being – or mental health – is a very personal, intrinsic value, which cannot be produced by force. Caring for one another is one of the best things that people can offer to each other. On the contrary, forced psychiatric interventions are very traumatizing, and result in suffering and more psychosocial problems. It makes the situation worse, and is amongst the worst things that people can do to each other. There is a huge difference between forced interventions and care. They are the total opposite of each other.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions disable care.

Forced psychiatric interventions are counter-productive to mental health and care, and represent a “breach of contact”. This can be seen on the one hand, for example, with nurses who stop trying to communicate or provide support, and resort to forced interventions. It can also be seen on the other hand, in the feelings of misunderstanding and trauma of the person subjected to forced interventions, which disable meaningful contact. It is obvious that good contact and communication are necessary for good mental health care. The end of communication, as is induced by forced psychiatric interventions, is a very harmful practice, which makes meaningful contact, and therefore mental health care in itself, impossible.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions do not result in safety.

Due to suffering, increased psychosocial problems, and a lack of any support for recovery caused by forced psychiatric interventions, the risks of escalation increase, and can even result in an endless circle of struggle and escalation, as our experiences show. The common argument given “to protect from harm or injury to self or others”, is not based on factual evidence supporting this statement. Forced psychiatric interventions do not result in more safety, but lead to more crises, and subsequently to greater risk of escalation.

 

Forced psychiatric interventions indicate a deficiency in mental health care.

Forced psychiatric interventions are more of a mechanism for (attempted) social control embedded within an underdeveloped and structurally neglected (and politically abused) system of mental health care that is built on the horrible remnants of the past, rather than on skills to support mental health and well-being. Underdevelopment and insufficient funding of the mental health care system is in place because of the extremely low political priority given to mental health care, consequently explaining the extremely low level of funding. It is impossible to deliver quality care without proper funding and attention to quality standards. However, due to historical stigma, mental health care remains unpopular with society, i.e. voters, and therefore politicians. In case of dire shortage of funding, the best possible solution for the system is to keep things calm, by delivering lots of harmful and in many cases unwanted medication to isolated people and calling it medical care. However, real mental health care is possible when efforts are made and sufficient funding is provided.

 

A world of options between “last resort” and “no care”

Many persons, including many States, cannot see beyond a very narrow “black and white” approach regarding psychosocial crisis situations, with only two options: either forced treatments (torture), or doing nothing (neglect). This simply isn’t the full picture. Between these two extremities, there is a largely undiscovered world of options for real support and real mental health care in psychosocial crisis-situations, with aspects such as: non-violent de-escalation, prevention of crisis in the earliest stage possible, focussing on contact and openness instead of repression, building trust and providing real support in acute crisis-situations. (Ex-) users and survivors who have experienced this are the best positioned to be involved in this shift of paradigm.

 

Real development of mental health care is urgently needed.

Unfortunately for decades, the real development of good care practices has been undermined by the existence of forced treatments, which has enabled caregivers to turn their back to the crisis situation, and leave the person behind without actual care, repressed and stripped of their dignity. This should stop. Forced psychiatric interventions constitute a very serious human rights violation. They can never be called care and cannot be considered a safety and anti-discrimination measure, because they lead to exactly the opposite.

 

We believe in the creative potential of humanity and the possibility to solve complicated problems when appropriate efforts are made. But in order to allocate the appropriate resources and generate enough creative efforts, appropriate motivation is needed. The UN CRPD standards give us and should give policymakers such motivation to realize and state publicly that the status quo in psychiatry is totally unacceptable and must be changed to a humane system of real care.

 

The discrepancies in the recommendations referred to above, even among different entities of the same organization (United Nations) must be eliminated and the provisions of the CRPD must prevail.

 

This is a challenge, but by thinking and acting together, it is possible to make this a reality.

 

We must keep in mind just one thing as a basis for this objective:

 

 

Forced psychiatric interventions constitute torture and ill-treatment and

must be banned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] CRPD Committee’s Guidelines on article 14 Liberty and security of person, III, para.6 (September 2015)

[2] General Comment No.35, para.19 (30 October 2014)

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] SPT, Rights of persons institutionalized and medically treated without informed consent, para.8

[6] Id. para.15

[7] Id. para. 9

[8] Id. para.10

[9] European Fundamental Rights Agency: Involuntary placement and involuntary treatment of persons with mental health problems, 2012. Available at: http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/involuntary-placement-and-involuntary-treatment-of-persons-with-mental-health-problems_en.pdf

Fiona Walsh – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD): Civil Liberties, Equality and Upholding Human Rights

The 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising (Easter Rebellion) is currently being marked in Dublin City and Ireland. The Rising was launched by a small number of Irish Republicans at Easter time 1916 aiming to terminate British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. One of the principles of the Proclamation guaranteed:

‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens’

In the context of those presenting in emotional distress today in Ireland in 2016 however there is still no guarantee that civil liberties will be respected and the reality of equal rights/opportunities for those perceived to be suffering from ‘mental disorders’ is not on the horizon just yet.   Diagnoses are based on subjective interpretation of ‘symptoms’ by Irish psychiatrists and other professionals who typically see individuals in terms of perceived deficits, brain disorders and inherited genetic defects. There are some more enlightened professionals who think in terms of ‘support’ and supporting decision making for those in distress as opposed to those who however compassionate and well meaning think in terms of ‘control’ ‘risk’ and substitute decision making. Many survivors of psychiatric abuse dread the paternalistic ‘best interests’ approach which typically has been used to deprive them of their basic human rights and to define what has contributed to their distress and what might support them to come through it.

 

Typically individuals in Ireland present in a voluntary capacity via their General Practitioner (GP), out of hours service or to the Accident & Emergency Unit of their local public hospital or to one of the private facilities. I am not aware of any psychiatric unit that does not use coercive practices of some sort.   Most who present in a voluntary capacity on the first occasion are not made aware on entering the facility they can be detained and forcibly treated, albeit on the 2nd opinion of another psychiatrist, which usually validates the first opinion. If you do not agree to Diagnosis and Treatment, then you may well be subjected to detention and forced drugging, seclusion, restraint, ECT etc. Under international human rights law this is could be regarded as Torture. The first thing that typically goes is the individuals clothes, access to fresh air etc, access to phonecalls/visitors , even your children until it is established that you will essentially play ball. Mothers can as I did receive threats such as ‘you know we have the option to contact child protection services’. True informed consent for any ‘Treatment’ including around serious side effects of medication must be sought yet typically is not and usually information not provided automatically either way so that the individual can make or be supported to make an informed decision. For those that know how the system operates and disagree with the medical model fear permeates and is increasingly stopping individuals in distress from reaching out to get the support they desperately crave in a given crisis. Reports of individuals taking their own life rather than submitting to coercion are sadly not uncommon and increasing in frequency in Ireland. Members of our Traveller Community have an increased incidence of suicide seven times higher than the rest of the population and fear often prevents travellers seeking professional support.

 

Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Aodhan O Riordain published a ‘Road Map for Ratification of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ on 21st October 2015.   Introducing Capacity Legislation features on this road map. Accordingly on 30/12/2015 our President Michael D Higgins signed the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill 2013. Rather than respecting the principles of CRPD though our Departments of Justice and Health and Government bizarrely based the legislation around ‘Mental Capacity’ providing for a ‘Functional Capacity Test’. Prof Brendan Kelly, a prominent Irish Psychiatrist has had huge influence and uses the CRPD to even defend administering Electroshock against the expressed wishes of an individual (family/loved ones have no rights either in respect of those with involuntary status).  Minister Kathleen Lynch refused to listen to the voice of Civil Society Capacity Coalition, chaired by Eilionoir Flynn, Deputy Director, Centre for Disability Law & Policy NUI Galway and essentially deprived Irish Citizens of the Right to have Legal Capacity respected in law. In addition the legislation denies the right to make a legally binding Advance Healthcare Directive in the context of emotional health, even in respect of ECT. Although the word ‘unwilling’ was recently removed from our Mental Health Act 2001 , the word ‘unable’ still remains, essentially allowing forced detention and drugging to continue unabated. As a survivor of Psychiatry (my experience is relatively mild in many respects) I sat in the Public Gallery of our Houses of Parliament (Dail and Seanad) saddened by the refusal of our Minister and Government to uphold the principles contained in CRPD and respect Human Rights, despite being challenged by brillant Human Rights advocates including Jillian Van Turnhout and Katherine Zappone in our Seanad and Padraig Mac Lochlainn along with other elected representatives in our Dail Chamber. At a recent NGO Forum on Human Rights in Dublin Castle , ‘United Nations Council, ten years on’ (which UN Rapporteur Ms Catalina Devandas Aguilar was invited to speak and attended) Layla de Cogan Chin, Dept of Justice left attendees in no doubt with the Dept line that the Irish Government will essentially pick and choose what rights will be respected and that CRPD will be ratified with reservations/declarations.

 

Increasingly Irish survivors are looking to United Nations and the International Human Rights arena to expose the inability/indifference of the Irish Government and Psychiatry Profession to respectively legislate and usher in reform so that those who seek support can do so free of fear and terror of coercion. For some layer by layer of their human dignity is stripped away and they have to recover from the Diagnosis and ‘Treatment’ in addition to what brought them in contact with services in the first place.   In my own case presenting in a voluntary capacity agreeing to take all prescribed medication, still resulted in an attempt by treating Psychiatrist in 2011 to attempt sectioning on the basis of a second opinion of her choice not mine. My apparent ‘crime’ was that I did not agree with given diagnosis or that medication would be of therapeutic benefit.  A dear friend of mine, fellow human rights defender and member of Recovery Experts by Experience (REE) , at 77 years of age has to live daily with the fear of having ECT forced upon her despite having a power of attorney and Advance Directive made. Why should any Psychiatrist have the power to totally disregard her expressed wishes and disrespect her right to Legal Capacity should she ever become distressed in the future? Why should any human being live with the daily fear of having forced ECT again? As a member of Recovery Experts by Experience (REE) we made a submission to UN ICCPR in 2014. Tallaght Trialogue advocacy also submitted two reports under UN ICESCR in addition to contributing to joint parallel report from Civil Society, coordinated by Noeline Blackwell on behalf of FLAC. As a member of Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy I presented in person in June 2015 to UN ICESCR Committee in Geneva (speaking notes link below).

 

The UN CRPD reflects that each Human being has a right to be treated equally (Article 5) and have their will and preferences respected, that their legal capacity (Article 12) is inherent and above all that their human dignity must be respected. My hope is that the standards in the Convention that prohibit forced detention (Article 14) and treatment will propel Irish elected representatives to seek, resource and fund alternative approaches to coercion such as Open Dialogue, Hearing Voices Approach (see http://hearingvoicesnetworkireland.ie/ ) , Crisis Houses, Peer Support & Advocacy … Survivors of Psychiatry deserve to have their voices heard not silenced as is the case in Ireland where tick a box engagement is typical and ‘Experts speak to Experts’ time and time again without the voice of lived experience.

 

Thank you Tina Minkowitz and fellow advocates at CHRUSP, Eilionoir Flynn & past and present Colleagues, CDLP NUI Galway , Fiona Morrissey Lawyer & Researcher and to all who contributed to the CRPD and advocate to have the standards enshrined upheld. It is time the incoming Irish Government embraced the principles of Civil Liberties and Equality in the 1916 Proclamation and ratified the CRPD (signed 30th March 2007) and Optional Protocol without declarations/reservations. Why not embrace the opportunity without further delay to respect Legal Capacity (Article 12) and the will and preferences of individuals and treat every citizen equally regardless of physical disability, psycho-social disability or a perceived disability? A Democracy that silences the voice of Civil Society is not what the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation aspired to, nor is it appropriate for the survivors of psychiatric abuse past and present in 2016. It is time for Irish Legislators to be challenged by those charged nationally to uphold human rights to step up to the plate and respect and ratify the CRPD and Optional Protocol. Accordingly I unreservedly support the Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment.

 

Signed: Fiona Walsh, Human Rights Defender & Survivor of Irish Psychiatric Abuse

Dated: 28th March 2016

Member:

  1. Recovery Experts by Experience (REE)
  2. Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy (on facebook & twitter @TallaTrialogue)

 

Speaking notes ICESCR Review Ireland June 2015 , Fiona Walsh, Tallaght Trialogue Advocacy (pages 19/20 FLAC newsletter)

http://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-news-25-2-aprjun-2015/

http://hearingvoicesnetworkireland.ie/

 

Irish Examiner Newspaper Article 20/01/2016

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/yourview/electroconvulsive-therapy-is-still-given-to-patients-who-dont-want-it-377065.html

 

Dr. Fiona Morrissey, Lawyer & Mental Health Researcher: Article in Irish Examiner dated 21/11/2015 and link to her research regarding Advance Directives

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/assisted-decision-making-bill-why-changes-are-needed-to-current-laws-366167.html

 

Article in Irish Independent 15/11/2015

http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/health/mentally-ill-still-forced-to-endure-shock-treatment-34201655.html

Eilionoir Flynn CDLP NUI Galway – Blog Posts on www.humanrights.ie

http://humanrights.ie/author/eilionoirflynn/

Prof Brendan Kelly, Psychiatrist, letter to editor 22/11/2015

http://www.independent.ie/opinion/letters/dont-deny-them-this-treatment-34223005.html

Roadmap to ratification of CRPD issued by Irish Dept of Justice

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Roadmap%20to%20Ratification%20of%20CRPD.pdf/Files/Roadmap%20to%20Ratification%20of%20CRPD.pdf

Linda Steele: Challenging Law’s ‘Monopoly on Violence’

Challenging Law’s ‘Monopoly on Violence’: Human Rights and Disability-Specific Lawful Violence

Dr Linda Steele, Lecturer, School of Law University of Wollongong, Australia

29 March 2016

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities[i] (‘the CRPD’) provides a human rights basis for seeing non-consensual medical treatment, detention and chemical and physical restraint as forms of discriminatory violence against people with disability. United Nations human rights bodies must be consistent and persistent in urging states parties to reform criminal and civil laws to explicitly prohibit these practices and provide legal avenues for redress. Until this occurs, these practices will continue to be lawful forms of violence which are condoned and, indeed, made possible by the state and by law.

In my blog post I will briefly discuss the concept of ‘lawful violence’ and why non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint constitute ‘disability-specific lawful violence’. I will then explain how the CRPD provides a human rights basis to contest the lawfulness of this violence, and what needs to be done to urge states parties to follow the CRPD and ultimately prohibit and remedy disability-specific lawful violence.

Questioning Violence’s Legal Status

People with disability experience disproportionately high rates of violence when compared to people without disability[ii] (even taking into account the issues with data collection which result in an under-quantification of the rates of violence against people with disability[iii]). There are numerous approaches to categorizing violence against people with disability for the purposes of analysis and devising recommendations for law reform directed to reducing its incidence and enhancing justice for survivors. One approach which I adopt in this blog post is to categories violence in terms of its legal status under domestic law: whether violence is prohibited and legally actionable, or instead permitted and condoned by law. This approach is particularly fruitful for appreciating the significance of the interface of the CRPD and domestic law to states parties addressing all forms of violence against people with disability.

  • Unlawful violence

Some unwanted contact, detention and restraint against people with disability constitutes ‘unlawful violence’ – violence that is prohibited by domestic criminal laws (e.g. offences of assault or sexual assault) and/or constitutes a tortious wrong pursuant to civil law (e.g. torts of battery or false imprisonment). While people with disability experiencing ‘unlawful violence’ technically have available to them criminal and civil legal protection and remedies, at an individual level there are considerable issues with enforcing these laws vis-à-vis survivors with disability. These issues are due to such factors as discriminatory views about disability (and the intersection of disability with gender, sexuality, race, criminality and age) held by police, prosecutors and judges, and because of discriminatory evidential and procedural laws.

Despite the significant issues with ‘unlawful violence’ vis-à-vis people with disability, there are some forms of unwanted contact, detention and restraint of people with disability which do not even fit within this category of ‘unlawful violence’ such that there is not even the possibility of punishment and remedy. For present purposes, non-consensual medical treatment, detention and restraint of people with disability do not fall within the category of ‘unlawful violence’, as I will now turn to explain.

  • Lawful violence

Some unwanted contact, detention and restraint of people with disability – notably non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint – is not prohibited or actionable under domestic law and instead is legally permissible. As such, these practices fall outside of the category of ‘unlawful violence’ and sit in a different category of ‘lawful violence’ or, as I term it by reason of the significance of ‘disability’ to its lawfulness, a category of ‘disability-specific lawful violence’.[iv]

Disability-Specific Lawful Violence

Drawing on the work of Robert Cover[v] on ‘legal violence’ (i.e. violence permitted by law), Austin Sarat and Thomas Kearns[vi] argue that law has a ‘monopoly’ on violence, because law determines what is possible to do to another’s body without any legal accountability. Domestic law, and particularly criminal law and tort law, has singular control over violence because regardless of individual experiences of or social values towards unwanted contact detention and restraint (or, indeed, even international human rights perspectives on unwanted contact, detention and restraint) it is the domestic legal system that determines what will be punished or remedied and conversely what will be permitted and go without any punishment of the perpetrator or remedy for the survivor. Unwanted contact, detention and restraint becomes violence that is ‘lawful’ where it is permitted by law. This is not to suggest that legal permissibility means that lawful violence is completely at large. Generally, lawful violence is deeply embedded in legislative and common law frameworks and in judicial and administrative procedures (many of which purportedly ‘protect’ those subjected to lawful violence through ‘procedural’ oversight). Therefore, the state and law are significantly complicit in the operation of and legitimation of unwanted contact, detention and restraint where this is permitted by law.

  • Lawfulness

Turning then to non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability, these practices are lawful violence in the sense discussed above because they are not prohibited by or actionable under law. In very general terms, criminal law defines assault and civil law defines battery in terms of non-consensual interpersonal physical contact or the non-consensual threat of such contact. The tort of false imprisonment and related criminal offences consider detention and restraint unlawful where it is the non-consensual deprivation of liberty in a delimited space. In the face of the general criminal and tortious prohibition of these acts, the entry point for the legality of such acts vis-à-vis people with disability is the legal exceptions to unlawful violence created by certain defences to criminal responsibility and tortious liability: consent, necessity and lawful authority. These are discussed here in very general terms (noting there will be differences between jurisdictions):

  1. Consent: Interpersonal physical contact does not constitute assault if consented to by the individual. However, where the individual does not have capacity to consent, the law permits a third party to consent on that person’s behalf. In the context of medical treatment of people with disability (such as sterilization) there are established legal processes for recognizing third party consent, e.g., involving determining lack of legal capacity on the basis of mental incapacity and then determining whether the medical decision is in the individual’s ‘best interests’ or a ‘step of last resort’.[vii]
  2. Necessity: Non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability might also be considered to fall in the defence of medical necessity if the procedure is considered ‘necessary’ in order to protect the individual’s life, health or wellbeing and the act is reasonable and proportionate to the ‘harm’ to be addressed (regardless of whether this harm is in the context of an immediate and short term emergency or an ongoing state of affairs).[viii]
  3. Lawful authority: Non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability are lawful when done pursuant to statutory or judicial authority.[ix] Such authority includes civil and forensic mental health legislation authoring detention and treatment, as well as legislation authorizing chemical and physical restraint.

These defences carve out an exception to ‘unlawful violence’ for non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability, such that they become forms of ‘lawful violence’ regulated by law. This procedural protection on an individual basis of when and how such interventions take place elides questioning at a systemic level why these unwanted practices should ever be permitted and in turn elides categorically naming these practices as violence.

Yet, the ‘regulation’ by law of these practices is typically framed as ‘protective’ because law’s involvement provides administrative and judicial procedural oversight to when and how these non-consensual interventions occur. In fact, the greater ‘procedural justice’ afforded to people with disability in the past couple of decades is frequently characterized as a marker of a more enlightened and progressive approach by law and society to people with disability insofar as it is juxtaposed to earlier purportedly extra-legal, arbitrary and repressive practices towards people with disability. However, far from showing law’s role in the ‘salvation’ or ‘empowerment’ of people with disability, the legal processes through which non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability are permitted in fact signal law’s complicity in this violence: the state’s regulation of a legal economy of violence against people with disability. The state and law contributes to the production of broader social and ethical norms about what is permissible to be done to people with disability and ultimately lowers the value of the bodies and lives of people with disability.

The status of some violence against people with disability as lawful has implications for the punishment of perpetrators and remedies for survivors – in short, there are none. For example, if an individual is detained in a mental health facility and given treatment pursuant to a court order made under civil mental health legislation, that individual cannot report this to police and have the doctor charged with assault (although if the doctor acts outside of the specifics of the order, this would then be unlawful). Similarly, if a girl with intellectual disability is sterilized pursuant to her parent’s consent, she cannot claim civil damages for battery where the doctor acted pursuant to her parents’ decision which was authorized by the court as being in her best interests. A further example is the detention in forensic mental health system of a non-convicted individual on basis of unfitness: this is lawful if is unfitness determined pursuant to the legal process specified by forensic mental health legislation and an individual cannot claim damages for years of imprisonment.

  • Disability-specificity

Above I have explained how non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability become ‘lawful violence’. I refer to this as ‘disability-specific’ lawful violence because disability is central to the lawfulness of this violence specifically to (and sometimes exclusively to) people with disability:

  1. This violence occurs in institutional circumstances specific to the marginalization, segregation and regulation of people with disability, e.g., mental health facilities, forensic mental health system, sterilization.
  2. Circulating across all of the defences discussed above and the associated legal frameworks of substituted decision-making (in the context of the defence of consent) and authorizing legislation (in the context of the defence of lawful authority), are stereotypes about disability as exemplified by judicial interpretation of such value-laden legal concepts as ‘harm’, ‘necessity’, ‘reasonable’, ‘best interests’ in relation to people with disability.[x]
  3. These defences and the associated legal frameworks of substituted decision-making and authorizing legislation appear as socially and ethically acceptable because of ideas associated with people with disability as needing (and benefiting from) medical treatment, detention and restraint. Significant here are discourses of disability linked to medicine and defect (rationales of therapy), helplessness (rationales of care and protection) and danger (rationales of risk management).
  4. Running across all of the defences and the associated legal frameworks of substituted decision-making and authorizing legislation is the significance of ‘mental incapacity’: either as the basis for the removal of legal capacity (e.g. in defences of consent and necessity) and/or as a basis for indicating lack of self-control, danger or vulnerability (e.g. in defences of necessity and lawful authority). ‘Mental incapacity’, while typically thought of as a scientifically objective characteristic of individuals, is a problematic concept embodying norms of rationality, self-sufficiency and bodily impermeability that are premised on an able subject.[xi]

Therefore, categorizing violence against people with disability in terms of its legal status illuminates how some violence against people with disability is legally permitted and state sanctioned. Where law has a monopoly over ‘violence’ against people with disability, it is arguable that turning to law to address individual instances of this violence is futile. A criminal or civil action can never be successful even with the best lawyers and judges: we cannot turn to domestic law for punishment or remedy (nor can we turn to the state to condone this violence) because law says they are not ‘violence’ in the legal sense and as such are not wrongs or harms and do not constitute injustices.

CRPD and Disability-Specific Lawful Violence

The CRPD provides the possibility of seeing non-consensual medical treatment, detention and physical and chemical restraint of people with disability as violence, and provides a human rights basis for states parties to prohibit these practices as unlawful violence. The CRPD explicitly imposes obligations on states parties to protect people with disability from violence, including by taking legal measures (presumably to prohibit violence and provide appropriate remedies). Article 16 of the CRPD states in part that: ‘States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other measures to protect persons with disabilities, both within and outside the home, from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects.’

Yet, the obligation in Article 16 is not merely to protect individuals from currently unlawful violence, e.g., enhancing enforcement in relation to individual cases. Rather, when Article 16 is read in conjunction with other Articles of the CRPD, it becomes apparent that states parties’ obligations under the CRPD in relation to violence include protecting people with disability from forms of violence which are presently lawful and hence from ‘disability-specific lawful violence’:

  1. The right to equality and non-discrimination in Article 5 and the right to personal integrity in Article 17 of the CRPD mean that individuals must have recognized their self-determination and ability to make their own decisions to consent to or withhold consent to interventions in their bodies and in their lives to the same degree as people without disability. People with disability cannot be subjected to non-consensual physical contact, detention or restraint on the basis of their disability.
  2. The right to equality and non-discrimination in Article 5 in conjunction with the right to legal capacity in Article 12 of the CRPD means that individuals should have their legal capacity to make decisions recognized to the same extent as individuals without disability and should not be denied legal capacity on the basis of ‘mental incapacity’. The right to exercise autonomy in consenting or withholding consent should be available to all regardless of perceived ‘mental incapacity’. In turn, non-consensual physical contact, detention or restraint on the basis of a denial of legal capacity is discriminatory because it applies only to individuals with a disability-linked ‘mental incapacity’ (itself a discriminatory concept, as mentioned above).[xii] On a similar basis, non-consensual detention on the basis of disability constitutes arbitrary detention pursuant to Article 14.[xiii]
  3. The right to freedom from torture in Article 15 means that the purportedly protective judicial and administrative procedural frameworks surrounding non-consensual contact, detention or restraint could, perversely, render these interventions not merely violence but state-sanctioned discriminatory violence and hence torture.[xiv]
  4. The shift evident in the preamble to the CRPD in the meaning of disability from a medical model to disability as ‘an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’ illuminates the significance of the social and political contingency of the meaning of disability to the realization of the human rights of people with disability including through domestic legal frameworks. In turn, this shift suggests that stereotypes about disability might presently circulate in legal frameworks that render lawful non-consensual contact, detention or restraint of people with disability.

The CRPD is quite radical in the new approach to violence against people with disability that it provides. This is because this approach contests foundational concepts of consent, capacity, state/judicial authority which order domestic legal systems (and to a certain extent international human rights law). This approach also contests old (but ever growing) institutions, disciplines and industries of incarceration and therapy through which non-consensual physical contact, detention or restraint are administered.

What needs to be done?

Despite these rather revolutionary ideas about disability and violence provided by the CRPD, disability-specific lawful violence continues. While the CRPD has prompted some states parties to ‘review’ (though perhaps not necessarily ‘reform’) capacity laws and mental health laws, ten years on from the coming into force the CRPD has not witnessed the prohibition of non-consensual physical contact, detention or restraint of people with disability.

Here I conclude by making a number of suggestions related to the significance of the interface of CRPD and domestic law to the prohibition and remedying of (presently lawful) violence against people with disability.

United Nations human rights committees must be consistent and persistent in urging states parties to reform criminal and civil laws to explicitly prohibit non-consensual physical contact, detention or restraint of people with disability including prohibit forced medical treatment, detention and chemical and physical restraint. United Nations human rights bodies should continue to encourage states parties to remove or withdraw interpretive declarations which interpret human rights to enable non-consensual medical treatment, detention and restraint (even when only as a ‘last resort’ or when in ‘best interests’). Unfortunately, these strategies might be impeded by the discrepancies which exist between United Nations human rights bodies in relation to the approach to disability and violence, with some human rights bodies failing to acknowledge disability-specific lawful violence and focusing on the ‘procedural’ protection approach to (regulating) violence. The discrepancies between United Nations human rights bodies might enable states parties to pick and choose how to interpret their obligations related to violence in such a way that ultimately focuses on addressing currently ‘unlawful’ violence and ignoring eliminating disability-specific lawful violence. United Nations human rights bodies might need to turn to consider the ideas of disability underpinning their approaches to violence against people with disability, some of which might precede the CRPD and its shift from a medical approach to disability.

A number of additional strategies which states parties should pursue (and which United Nations human rights bodies should encourage states parties to pursue) include:

  1. States parties should not limit their ‘review’ and ‘reform’ efforts to attaining a best practice in judicial and administrative oversight of disability-specific lawful violence (i.e. through procedural safeguards) to questioning whether some practices should ever be state sanctioned on anyone (including people with disability) regardless of the legal procedure through which this sanctioning occurs. Central to this is making apparent and naming the ideas about disability inherent in the law itself, rather than only addressing stereotypes about law that circulate in the application or enforcement of law at an individual level. This involves denaturalizing centuries-old legal concepts, legal procedures and jurisdictions – some of which are foundational to legal authority generally.
  2. States parties should consider the intersection of ideas about disability with other dimensions of identity, particularly being mindful of the identities of the individuals to whom these practices disproportionately apply: e.g. gender and forced mental health treatment and detention of women, age and chemical and physical restraint of older people with dementia in aged care facilities, Indigeneity and over-representation of Indigenous Australians in forensic mental health detention, gender and sterilization, ideas about criminality re people in forensic mental health detention.
  3. States parties should revisit the ideas of bodies and space envisaged by domestic laws related to violence, notably in relation to false imprisonment. In domestic law, detention and restraint focuses on external factors which restrict the individual’s movement – yet much of the interventions in the disability-specific context work from within the body – to restrain and regulate from within (e.g. chemical restraint[xv]).
  4. States parties should develop a strategy for ‘transitional justice’[xvi] that addresses prohibiting and making legally actionable future instances of non-consensual medical treatment, detention and restraint as well as developing a system to recognize, remedy and remember past instances of these practices when they were still lawful.[xvii] This might involve thinking beyond disability to how law (both international and domestic legal frameworks) have dealt with mass atrocities, historical injustices and state-sanctioned violence in relation to other marginalized groups. This system must not only focus on the individuals and institutions administering these practices, but also address how to make the state and law account for their complicity.
  5. States parties should address the role of ‘para-legal’ regulatory frameworks such as bioethics (e.g. research, clinical, professional) in legitimizing the administration of disability-specific lawful violence.[xviii]
  6. States parties should work with health, medical and disability services to challenge institutional, disciplinary and (importantly in an increasingly privatized and corporatized context) economic imperatives[xix] for the continuation of the administration of disability-specific lawful violence.
  7. States parties should encourage reforms to tertiary legal education which take a critical approach to disability and to disability-specific lawful violence in courses such as criminal law and tort law. Typically, law text books cover the operation of defences in relation to people with disability in a self-evident and non-critical manner which then naturalizes the legal treatment of people with disability and negates their subjection to violence and the law and state’s complicity in this violence.

Ultimately, the lower legal threshold of violence in relation to people with disability reflects a devaluing of bodies and lives of individuals with disability – until this is addressed the human rights of people with disability promised by the CRPD will be profoundly and disappointingly incomplete.

 

[i] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, opened for signature 13 December 2006, 2515 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 May 2008).

[ii] See, e.g., Karen Hughes, Mark A Bellis, Lisa Jones, Sara Wood, Geoff Bates, Lindsay Eckley, Ellie McCoy, Christopher Mikton, Tom Shakespeare and Alana Officer, ‘Prevalence and Risk of Violence against Adults with Disabilities: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies’ (2012) 379(9826) Lancet 1621.

[iii] See, e.g., Jess Cadwallader, Anne Kavanagh and Sally Robinson, ‘We Count What Matters, and Violence Against People with Disability Matters’, The Conversation, 27 November 2015, http://theconversation.com/we-count-what-matters-and-violence-against-people-with-disability-matters-51320, accessed 6 January 2016.

[iv] On ‘disability-specific lawful violence’ generally see, e.g., Linda Steele, ‘Disability, Abnormality and Criminal Law: Sterilisation as Lawful and Good Violence’ (2014) 23(3) Griffith Law Review 467; Submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings, including the gender and age related dimensions, and the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability (2015).

[v] Robert Cover, ‘Violence and the Word’ (1986) 95 Yale Law Journal 1601.

[vi] Austin Sarat and Thomas R Kearns, ‘Introduction’ in Austin Sarat and Thomas R Kearns (eds), Law’s Violence (University of Michigan Press, 1992) 1, 4.

[vii] In the Australian context see, e.g., Secretary, Department of Health and Community Services v JWB (1992) 175 CLR 218.

[viii] In the UK and Australian context see, e.g., Re F (Mental Patient Sterilisation) [1990] 2 AC 1.

[ix] In the Australian context see, e.g., Coco v R (1994) 179 CLR 427.

[x] On best interests see, e.g., Linda Steele, ‘Making Sense of the Family Court’s Decisions on the Non-Therapeutic Sterilisation of Girls with Intellectual Disability’ (2008) 22(1) Australian Journal of Family Law 1.

[xi] See, e.g., Linda Steele, ‘Disability, Abnormality and Criminal Law: Sterilisation as Lawful and Good Violence’ (2014) 23(3) Griffith Law Review 467.

[xii] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment No 1 (2014): Article 12: Equal recognition before the law, 11th sess, UN Doc CRPD/C/GC/1 (19 May 2014).

[xiii] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment No 1 (2014): Article 12: Equal recognition before the law, 11th sess, UN Doc CRPD/C/GC/1 (19 May 2014); see also Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Right of Anyone Deprived of Their Liberty to Bring Proceedings Before a Court, 30th sess, UN Doc A/HRC/30/37 (6 July 2015), notably Principle 20 and Guideline 20.

[xiv] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General Comment No 1 (2014): Article 12: Equal recognition before the law, 11th sess, UN Doc CRPD/C/GC/1 (19 May 2014) 11[42]. On non-consensual medical treatment, detention and restraint of people with disability as torture, see Dinesh Wadiwel, ‘Black Sites: Disability and Torture’, paper presented at Critical Social Futures: Querying Systems of Disability Support, Symposium of The Australia Sociological Association, 19 June 2015.

[xv] Erick Fabris, Tranquil Prisons: Chemical Incarceration under Community Treatment Orders (University of Toronto Press, 2011).

[xvi] See, e.g., Carolyn Frohmader and Therese Sands, Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA) Submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee Inquiry into Violence, Abuse and Neglect Against People with Disability in Institutional and Residential Settings, August 2015.

[xvii] See, eg, Hege Orefellen, ‘Hege Orefellen on Reparations’, Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Commitment and Forced Treatment, https://absoluteprohibition.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/hege-orefellen-on-reparations/, accessed 27 March 2016.

[xviii] The significance of bioethics is apparent from the controversy around Ashley X: see, e.g., Eva Feder Kittay, ‘Forever Small: The Strange Case of Ashley X’ (2011) 26(3) Hypatia 610.

[xix] On the ‘therapeutic industrial complex’ see, e.g., Michelle Chen, ‘How Prison Reform Could Turn the Prison-Industrial Complex Into the Treatment-Industrial Complex’, The Nation (20 November 2015) http://www.thenation.com/article/how-prison-reform-could-turn-the-prison-industrial-complex-into-the-treatment-industrial-complex/, accessed 29 March 2016.

-We are not violating the human rights. -Yes, you are! by Anne Grethe Teien

http://agteien.blogspot.no/2016/03/we-are-not-violating-human-rights-yes_74.html

Introduction

Psychiatric human rights violations are often  denied and trivialized, even distortedly re-defined as “human rights” and “right to necessary health help”. The UN convention for the rights of persons with disabilities, CRPD,  is changing that. CRPD demands an absolute prohibition of forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment. These are important requirements in giving people with psychosocial disabilities equal human rights. In this text, I will look at different aspects of the CRPD related to that demand. I will illustrate with some references to Norway, the country where I live, showing ways in which the Norwegian Mental Health Act does not comply with the convention. I will also share some further reflections. Towards the end I have written a short version of my own experiences from forced psychiatry.  Mental health laws may vary between countries, but some elements are prevalent: the laws are typically directed specifically towards people with psychosocial disabilities and involve forced treatment and involuntary commitment . This text is written for the Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Forced Treatment and Involuntary Commitment (17). Procrastinations must stop – CRPD-based law reforms must begin!

Norway and the CRPD 

Norway ratified the CRPD June 3rd 2013, but came up with some interpretative declarations of article 12, 14 and 25 that undermine central parts of the convention (1).  Norway uses these declarations to try to defend the Mental Health Act and forced psychiatric treatment. In February 2015, the president of the Norwegian Psychological Association, Tor Levin Hofgaard, wrote an article asking for a clarification from the government whether health personnel violate the human rights when they follow the coercion regulations in the Mental Health Act (2). He referred to a report sent to the authorities in December 2013 by the then Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud –  LDO, Sunniva Ørstavik (3). The report said that the Mental Health Act is discriminatory and does not comply with the CRPD. LDO also urged Norway to quickly withdraw its interpretative declarations. In public, the LDO report was met with a noisy silence by the authorities.  So, as time had went on, Hofgaard asked for the mentioned clarification.  Anne Grethe Erlandsen, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Care Services, answered on behalf of the Norwegian authorities: “Vi bryter ikke menneskerettighetene” / – We are not violating the human rights (4). That answer is absolutely not right.

Norway uses much coercion in psychiatry. In spite of reduction strategies, the use of coercion stays at stably high levels (3: p.6-8; 5: p.20-23). Also, reduction strategies instead of CRPD-based abolishment strategies do not go to the core of the issue. Norway is used to see itself as a human rights protective nation and often does not hesitate to criticize other countries for their human rights violations. So it is maybe hard for the authorities to take in that the state of Norway  is actually accepting torture and other severe human rights abuses in its own mental health system, via the Mental Health Act.  Point 42 of the CRPD General Comments No 1 says as follows:

As has been stated by the Committee in several concluding observations, forced treatment by psychiatric and other health and medical professionals is a violation of the right to equal recognition before the law and an infringement of the rights to personal integrity (art. 17); freedom from torture (art. 15); and freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse (art. 16). This practice denies the legal capacity of a person to choose medical treatment and is therefore a violation of article 12 of the Convention. States parties must, instead, respect the legal capacity of persons with disabilities to make decisions at all times, including in crisis situations; must ensure that accurate and accessible information is provided about service options and that non-medical approaches are made available; and must provide access to independent support. States parties have an obligation to provide access to support for decisions regarding psychiatric and other medical treatment. Forced treatment is a particular problem for persons with psychosocial, intellectual and other cognitive disabilities. States parties must abolish policies and legislative provisions that allow or perpetrate forced treatment, as it is an ongoing violation found in mental health laws across the globe, despite empirical evidence indicating its lack of effectiveness and the views of people using mental health systems who have experienced deep pain and trauma as a result of forced treatment. The Committee recommends that States parties ensure that decisions relating to a person’s physical or mental integrity can only be taken with the free and informed consent of the person concerned.“ (6: #42)

Neglected harms and traumas – and the need for reparations

Long-term studies have shown higher recovery rates for people who were not on neuroleptics and on very low doses (14, 15). The list of potential harmful effects from neuroleptic drugs is long, including tardive dyskinesia, brain damage, cognitive decline, neuroleptic-induced supersensitivity psychosis, Parkinsonism, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, diabetes, demotivation, anxiety, aggression, suicide, akathisia [ an extreme form of restlessness which in itself can lead to suicide], neuroleptic malignant syndrome — a potentially lethal complication of treatment etc (14, 18). In a research summary on possible harms from forced psychiatry done by nurse and researcher Reidun Norvoll, she listed the following main categories:  1) violation of autonomy and of psychological and physical integrity. Deprivation of freedom of movement (deprivation of freedom). 2) Physical harm and death. 3) Violence and abuse. 4) Trauma, retraumatisation and posttraumatic stress syndrome. 5) Offences/violations, loss of dignity and experiences of punishment. 6) Psychological agony in the forms of shame, anxiety, feeling unsafe, anger, powerlessness, depression and loss of self esteem. 7) Social problems  and loss of social identity. 8) Loss of access to own coping skills and of possibilities to self development. 9) Loss of access to voluntary treatment. 10) Harmed therapeutic relationships, resentment against- and distrust in mental health services. (7: p. 16; 8: #5.3).

It can be hard to process traumas that are not acknowledged and understood as such by society in general. When mental health services represents the abuser and as it is officially seen as the mental health helper, one can be left in a very lonely situation trying to handle psychiatry-induced traumas.  I think, as part of the implementation of CRPD, there should be provided access to help and support to those who struggle with traumas and other harms from forced psychiatry.  I imagine a reality where it is possible for everyone to ask for help when they feel they need it, knowing that they have the CRPD on their side; that the state can not expose them to torture and other terrible human rights violations for being in mental pain (!).

When the necessary abolishment of discriminatory mental health laws and the prohibition of forced psychiatric treatment and commitment has become reality, I think that representatives from politics and psychiatry should publicly perform statements about- and apologies for -the severe human rights abuses that have been going on for so long towards people with psychosocial disabilities. After all the societal acceptance, silence and denial of these kinds of abuses, I think such an acknowledgement and apology is of significant importance for starting reparation work. Compensations  is also a relevant part of this.  At the same time, there should be no pressure towards victims of forced psychiatry to forgive and get over.  I strongly recommend survivor and lawyer Hege Orefellen’s appeal on the urgent need for effective remedies, redress and guarantees of non-repetition regarding torture and other ill-treatment in psychiatry (9). Her appeal was held during a CRPD side-event about article 15 and its potential to end impunity for torture in psychiatry (10). Also, in Guidelines on article 14 of the CRPD, point 24 (a-f) one can read about “access to justice, reparation and redress to persons with disabilities deprived of their liberty in infringement of article 14 taken alone, and taken in conjunction with article 12 and/or article 15 of the Convention” (11).

Danger- and treatment criteria 

The Norwegian Mental Health Act has, in addition to its danger criteria, a criterion called the treatment criterion, which does not require danger to oneself or others. The treatment criterion allows for psychiatric coercion if the person is claimed to have a severe mental disorder,  and application of forced psychiatry is seen as necessary to prevent the person from having his/her prospects for recovery or significant improvement seriously reduced; alternatively that it’s seen as very possible that the person’s condition in the very near future will significantly deteriorate without coercion (12: Section 3 – 3. 3 a). A very wishy-washy criterion indeed, which is much in use. In 2014 the treatment criterion alone was used in 72% of the cases among people commited (16: p.37).

Both the treatment criterion and the criteria regarding danger to oneself or others discriminate against people with psychosocial disabilities in that disability, or ‘serious mental disorder’,  is a premise for psychiatric coercion to apply. In other words, this discrimination is a violation of CRPD article 14 which says that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty (13). Secondly, as the Mental Health Act allows for forced psychiatric treatment, it violates the right to personal integrity (art. 17); freedom from torture (art. 15); and freedom from violence, exploitation and abuse (art. 16). (6:#42).

Points 13-15 in the Guidelines on article 14 are also relevant in this context:

VII. Deprivation of liberty on the basis of perceived dangerousness of persons with disabilities, alleged need for care or treatment, or any other reasons. 

  1. Throughout all the reviews of State party reports, the Committee has established that it is contrary to article 14 to allow for the detention of persons with disabilities based on the perceived danger of persons to themselves or to others. The involuntary detention of persons with disabilities based on risk or dangerousness, alleged need of care or treatment or other reasons tied to impairment or health diagnosis is contrary to the right to liberty, and amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
  1. Persons with intellectual or psychosocial impairments are frequently considered dangerous to themselves and others when they do not consent to and/or resist medical or therapeutic treatment. All persons, including those with disabilities, have a duty to do no harm. Legal systems based on the rule of law have criminal and other laws in place to deal with the breach of this obligation. Persons with disabilities are frequently denied equal protection under these laws by being diverted to a separate track of law, including through mental health laws. These laws and procedures commonly have a lower standard when it comes to human rights protection, particularly the right to due process and fair trial, and are incompatible with article 13 in conjunction with article 14 of the Convention. 
  1. The freedom to make one’s own choices established as a principle in article 3(a) of the Convention includes the freedom to take risks and make mistakes on an equal basis with others. In its General Comment No. 1, the Committee stated that decisions about medical and psychiatric treatment must be based on the free and informed consent of the person concerned and respect the person’s autonomy, will and preferences.  Deprivation of liberty on the basis of actual or perceived impairment or health conditions in mental health institutions which deprives persons with disabilities of their legal capacity also amounts to a violation of article 12 of the Convention.” (11: #13-15)

The laws that apply to people in the rest of society regarding acute situations and in the criminal justice system, must apply to people with disabilities too in non-discriminatory ways. The CRPD’s demand for absolute prohibition of forced treatment and involuntary commitment means that it applies both in criminal justice- and civil contexts. (11: #14, 16, 20-21, also 10-12). For people with psychosocial disabilities who come in contact with the criminal justice system, necessary support must be provided to ensure the right to legal capacity, equal recognition before the law and a fair trial. Forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment can not be applied as sanctions for criminal acts and/or for the prevention of such.

Replacing substituted decision-making with supported decision-making

Substituted decision making must be replaced by supported decision making systems. Giving access to supported decision-making for some but still maintaining substitute decision-making regimes, is not sufficient to comply with article 12 of the CRPD (6: #28). From General Comment No 1:

A supported decision-making regime comprises various support options which give primacy to a person’s will and preferences and respect human rights norms. It should provide protection for all rights, including those related to autonomy (right to legal capacity, right to equal recognition before the law, right to choose where to live, etc.) and rights related to freedom from abuse and ill-treatment (…).” (6: #29)

Some who agree with the CRPD in that diagnostic criteria for coercion should be abolished, still seem fine with the idea that ‘mental incapacity’ can be used as criteria for psychiatric coercion. This is not in line with the CRPD, which neither accepts disability criteria for the deprivation of freedom nor psychiatric coercion. Here is a relevant point to note, from General Comments No1:  “The provision of support to exercise legal capacity should not hinge on mental capacity assessments; new, non-discriminatory indicators of support needs are required in the provision of support to exercise legal capacity.” (6:#29 i)

A summary of my own experiences from forced psychiatry 

I was not suicidal when psychiatry put me under the Mental Health Act and decided I should get forced neuroleptic “treatment”. I had never been suicidal. The former mentioned treatment criterion is the criterion that was used on me.  Forced psychiatry, with its locking me up, restraining me, drugging me, and keeping me on CTO when discharged from hospital, certainly did not make my life better  in any way– everything became indescribably much worse. I experienced forced psychiatry as one long punishment for having mental problems. After having been on neuroleptics for a while, my cognition, my intellectual abilities, were severely affected and reduced – and so was my language: from usually having a rich vocabulary I could just utter short, simple sentences. My body became rigid and lost its fine motor skills so I couldn’t dance anymore. A period I also had akathisia, a terrible restlessness which made me walk endlessly back and forth, back and forth. I’m trained a professional dancer and having my dance abilities medicated away was a big loss in itself. The medication took away my vitality, my sensitivity. My emotions were numbed. My personality faded away.  Then a severe depression set in – just a complete state of hopelessness – and for the first time in my life I became suicidal. Again and again I said to the staff, psychologists, doctors: – I can not be on meds. I tried to have them understand that the neuroleptics were destroying me and my life.  They communicated to me that they thought I was being fussy. They were a big wall that just would not listen to me. Respectlessly enough, some even told me –yes, told me -that I was doing better. The doctors said I would need to be on meds for the rest of my life. That was a message which just manifested the complete hopeless situation. From entering psychiatry, indeed having mental problems, but being a vital, thoughtful, and expressive person who was dancing several times a week, psychiatry  had coercively medicated me away from myself and iatrogenically made me severely depressed and suicidal . In effect a slow form of forced euthanasia . One day, while on CTO, shortly after a new forced injection in the buttocks with those horrible meds, I did a dramatic suicide attempt. I was put back into the hospital. I am very glad that I survived. Because unbelievably, a couple of months later, I was told that someone had made a bureaucratic mistake: the coercion documents had not been renewed in time, so there was nothing they could do to hold me back. Of course they would recommend me to stick to the treatment (Ha!) and not leave the hospital too fast (Ha!). I left the hospital the same day. It took me about half a year to become myself again, to be able to think and speak freely, to get my sensitivity, my emotions back, to dance, to feel human again, to feel life. I have never been in a mental hospital since then. I have never had another dose of neuroleptics. And I have never been suicidal again.  More than a decade later, I am still traumatized by my experiences from forced psychiatry.

Conclusion

I am very thankful to the CRPD committee for their important work. The CRPD represents a paradigm shift, and there is clearly a resistance out there to accept the full width and depth of the convention. That human rights and non-discrimination applies equally to people with disabilities should not be seen as a radical message in 2016, but sadly, it still is. Societies with their leaders need to realize that systematic, legalized discrimination and abuse of people with disabilities is based on tradition and habitual ways of thinking –not on human rights. That something has been brutally wrong for a long time does not make it more right. Forced psychiatric treatment and involuntary commitment need to be absolutely prohibited.

Thank you for your attention.

References:

1) MDAC:  Legal Opinion on Norway’s Declaration/Reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://mdac.org/sites/mdac.org/files/norway_declaration_-_legal_opinion.pdf

2)

Tor Levin Hofgaard:  Bryter vi menneskerettighetene?

http://www.dagensmedisin.no/blogger/tor-levin-hofgaard/2015/02/19/avklaring-etterlyses-bryter-vi-menneskerettighetene/

3)

In Norwegian: Equality and anti-discrimination ombud (LDO): CRPD report to Norwegian authorities 2013 – summary http://www.ldo.no/globalassets/brosjyrer-handboker-rapporter/rapporter_analyser/crpd–2013/crpd_report_sammendrag_pdf_ok.pdf

4)

Anne Grethe Erlandsen: Vi bryter ikke menneskerettighetene http://www.dagensmedisin.no/artikler/2015/02/27/vi-bryter-ikke-menneskerettighetene/

5)

In Norwegian: LDO’s report to the CRPD committee 2015 – a supplement to Norway’s 1st periodic report http://www.ldo.no/globalassets/03_nyheter-og-fag/publikasjoner/crpd2015rapport.pdf

6)

Link to download of CRPD General Comment No 1:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/GC.aspx

7)

In Norwegian: Equality and anti-discrimination ombud (LDO): CRPD report to Norwegian authorities 2013- full version  http://www.ldo.no/globalassets/brosjyrer-handboker-rapporter/rapporter_analyser/crpd–2013/rapportcrpd_psykiskhelsevern_pdf.pdf

8)

NOU 2011: 9. Økt selvbestemmelse og rettssikkerhet — Balansegangen mellom selvbestemmelsesrett og omsorgsansvar i psykisk helsevern. 5. Kunnskapsstatus med hensyn til skadevirkninger av tvang i det psykiske helsevernet. Utredning for Paulsrud-utvalget https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/nou-2011-9/id647625/?q=&ch=12

9)

Hege Orefellen: Torture and other ill-treatment in psychiatry – urgent need for effective remedies, redress and guarantees of non-repetition https://absoluteprohibition.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/hege-orefellen-on-reparations/

10)

CRPD 13: WNUSP side event on Article 15: Its Potential to End Impunity for Torture in Psychiatry  http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/crpd-13-wnusp-side-event-on-article-15-english-audio/

11)

Link to guidelines on article 14 of the CRPD under “Recent Events and Developments” http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/CRPDIndex.aspx

12)

Norwegian Mental Health Act translated to English http://app.uio.no/ub/ujur/oversatte-lover/data/lov-19990702-062-eng.pdf

13)

CRPD Convention http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/ConventionRightsPersonsWithDisabilities.aspx#14

14)

Via Mad in America / ‘Anatomy of an Epidemic’ (Robert Whitaker):  List of long-term outcomes literature for antipsychotics http://www.madinamerica.com/mia-manual/antipsychoticsschizophrenia/

15)

Lex Wunderink et al: Recovery in Remitted First-Episode Psychosis at 7 Years of Follow-up of an Early Dose Reduction/Discontinuation or Maintenance Treatment Strategy. Long-term Follow-up of a 2-Year Randomized Clinical Trial http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1707650

16)

Bruk av tvang i psykisk helsevern for voksne i 2014 (report on the use of coercion in psychiatry in Norway 2014) https://helsedirektoratet.no/Lists/Publikasjoner/Attachments/1161/Rapport%20om%20tvang%20IS-2452.pdf

17)

Campaign to Support CRPD Absolute Prohibition of Forced Treatment and Involuntary Commitment https://absoluteprohibition.wordpress.com/

18)

RxISK Guide: Antipsychotics for Prescribers: What are the risks? http://rxisk.org/antipsychotics-for-prescribers/#How_likely_are_the_listed_side_effects_of_antipsychotics_to_happen

Other:

Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities http://indicators.ohchr.org/

Peter Gøtzsche – FORCED ADMISSION AND FORCED TREATMENT IN PSYCHIATRY CAUSES MORE HARM THAN GOOD

http://www.deadlymedicines.dk/forced-admission-and-forced-treatment-in-psychiatry-causes-more-harm-than-good/

By Peter C. Gøtzsche, Professor, MD, DrMedSci, MSc

8 March 2016

Forced treatment in psychiatry as we currently know it cannot be defended, neither on ethical, legal or scientific grounds. Ethically, the patients’ values and preferences are not being respected, although the fundamental human right to equal recognition before the law applies to everyone, also to people with mental disorders.1,2 This is clear from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,2 which virtually all countries have ratified. However, we ignore the convention and continue to discriminate against people with mental problems.

Please consider this. Doctors cannot give patients insulin without their permission, not even if the lack of insulin might kill them, and they cannot give adult Jehova’s witnesses blood transfusions without their permission, even if the lack of blood might kill them. The only drugs that can be given without permission are also some of the most dangerous ones. Psychiatric drugs are the third major killer after heart disease and cancer, with an estimated 539,000 deaths in the United States and European Union combined.1,3 Only soldiers at war and psychiatric patients are forced to run risks against their will that might kill or cripple them. But there is an important, ethically relevant difference: soldiers have chosen to become soldiers; psychiatric patients have not chosen to become psychiatric patients.

In many countries, a person considered insane, or in a similar condition, can be admitted to a psychiatric ward on an involuntary basis if the prospect of cure or substantial and significant improvement of the condition would otherwise be significantly impaired. After having studied the science carefully over many years, I have come to doubt that this is ever the case.1

Forced treatment most commonly involves the use of antipsychotics, but they are very poor drugs. The placebo controlled trials are seriously flawed because they have not been adequately blinded.1 Antipsychotics have many and conspicuous side effects, so most doctors and patients can guess whether an active drug or a placebo is given, which exaggerates the measured effect markedly.1 Furthermore, almost all patients in these trials were already in treatment with an antipsychotic drug before they were randomised after a short wash-out period. This cold turkey design means that abstinence symptoms – which may include psychosis – are being inflicted on patients who get placebo. Even helped by these formidable biases in the trials, the outcome is poor. The minimal improvement on the Clinical Global Impressions Ratings corresponds to about 15 points on the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale,4 but what was obtained in recent placebo controlled trials in submissions to the FDA for newer antipsychotics was only 6 points,5 although it is easy for scores to improve quite a bit if people are knocked down by a tranquilliser and express their abnormal ideas less frequently. Thus, the FDA has approved newer antipsychotic drugs whose effect is far below what is clinically relevant. Old drugs are similarly ineffective.1

Whereas the benefits of antipsychotics are doubtful, the harms are certain, and the cold turkey design is lethal. One in every 145 patients who entered the trials for risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine and sertindole died, but none of these deaths were mentioned in the scientific literature.6 Therefore, if we want to find out how lethal these drugs are, we should look at trials in dementia, as such patients are not so likely to have received antipsychotics before randomisation. Randomised trials in dementia shows that for every 100 patients treated for a few weeks, one is killed by an antipsychotic, compared to those treated with placebo.7 It could even be worse than this because deaths are seriously underreported in published trials. For example, a review found that only 19 of 50 deaths and 1 of 9 suicides on olanzapine described in trial summaries on websites also appeared in journal articles.8

There is no evidence that mechanical restraint in belts or seclusion has any benefits, but these treatments can also be lethal. Violence breeds violence and when psychotic patients become violent, it is very often because of the inhumane treatment they receive. It may also be because they get abstinence symptoms when they drop a few doses of an antipsychotic because they are very unpleasant to take, which can include akathisia – an extreme form of restlessness that predisposes to both suicide and homicide.1

Electroshock is also forced on people although it doesn’t seem to work for schizophrenia and although the effect on depression is temporary, which often results in a series of shocks.1 About half of the patients get memory loss1 and the more treatments they get, the more severe is the memory loss.9 Some psychiatrists claim that electroshock can be lifesaving but this has never been documented whereas we know that electroshock may kill people: about 1 in 1000 patients die.10

Another reason for using force is if patients present an obvious and substantial danger to themselves or others, in which case they can be involuntarily admitted. However, this is not necessary. The National Italian Mental Health Law specifies that a reason for involuntary treatment cannot be that the patient is dangerous. This is a matter for the police, as it also is in Iceland, and patients in Italy can decide that they want treatment elsewhere.1

Forced treatment does more harm than good and it kills many people, not only because of the direct harms of the drugs but also because of suicide. A register study of 2,429 suicides showed that the closer the contact with psychiatric staff – which often involves forced treatment – the worse the outcome.11 Compared to people who had not received any psychiatric treatment in the preceding year, the adjusted rate ratio for suicide was 44 (95% confidence interval 36 to 54) for people who had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. These patients would be expected to be at greater risk of suicide than other patients (confounding by indication), but most of the potential biases in the study favoured the null hypothesis of there being no relationship. An accompanying editorial noted that some of the people who commit suicide during or after an admission to hospital do so because of conditions inherent in that hospitalisation.12

I fully admit that some patients are very difficult to treat optimally without using force. But it seems that, with adequate leadership and training of staff in de-escalation techniques, it is possible to practice psychiatry without using force.1,13,14 In Iceland, belts have not been used since 1932, and there are psychiatrists all over the world who have dealt with deeply disturbed patients for their entire career without ever having used antipsychotics, ECT or force.1

I believe we have to abolish laws of forced admission and treatment, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.2 Abandoning using force will be harmful to some patients but it will benefit vastly many more. We will need to work out how we may best deal with those patients who would have benefited from forced treatment in a future where force is no longer allowed.

Peter C Gøtzsche graduated as a Master of Science in biology and chemistry in 1974 and as a physician 1984. He is a specialist in internal medicine. Co-founded the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993 and established The Nordic Cochrane Centre the same year. He became professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis in 2010 at the University of Copenhagen.

References

1 Gøtzsche PC. Deadly psychiatry and organised denial. Copenhagen: People’s Press; 2015.

2 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. General comment No. 1 2014 May 19. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G14/031/20/PDF/G1403120.pdf?OpenElement (accessed 1 April 2015).

3 Gøtzsche PC. Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good? BMJ 2015;350:h2435.

4 Leucht S, Kane JM, Etschel E, et al. Linking the PANSS, BPRS, and CGI: clinical implications. Neuropsychopharmacology 2006;31:2318-25.

5 Khin NA, Chen YF, Yang Y, et al. Exploratory analyses of efficacy data from schizophrenia trials in support of new drug applications submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration. J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73:856–64.

6 Whitaker R. Mad in America. Cambridge: Perseus Books Group; 2002.
7 Schneider LS, Dagerman KS, Insel P. Risk of death with atypical antipsychotic drug treatment for dementia: meta-

analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. JAMA 2005;294:1934–43.

8 Hughes S, Cohen D, Jaggi R. Differences in reporting serious adverse events in industry sponsored clinical trial registries and journal articles on antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 2014;4:e005535.

9 Sackeim HA, Prudic J, Fuller R, et al. The cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy in community settings. Neuropsychopharmacology 2007;32:244-54.

10 Read J, Bentall R. The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: a literature review. Epidemiol Psichiatr Soc 2010 Oct-Dec;19:333-47.

11 Hjorthøj CR, Madsen T, Agerbo E, et al. Risk of suicide according to level of psychiatric treatment: a nationwide nested case-control study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2014;49:1357–65.

12 Large MM, Ryan CJ. Disturbing findings about the risk of suicide and psychiatric hospitals. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2014;49:1353–5.

13 Fiorillo A, De Rosa C, Del Vecchio V, et al. How to improve clinical practice on involuntary hospital admissions of psychiatric patients: Suggestions from the EUNOMIA study. Eur Psychiat 2011;26:201-7.

14 Scanlan JN. Interventions to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in inpatient psychiatric settings: what we know so far, a review of the literature. Int J Soc Psychiat 2010;56:412–23.