Press releases

A hospital violated the human dignity and freedom of a patient locked up in a secure room

Ombudsman proposes recompensation

Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen finds that Pohjois-Kymi Hospital violated the human dignity and personal freedom of a female patient as she was locked up in a secure room in the hospital.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman has issued the hospital with a reprimand for illegal action and negligence. Jääskeläinen also proposes that the patient be recompensed for the violations of fundamental and human rights to which she was subjected.

Jääskeläinen finds that the patient's treatment was a breach of the Constitution of Finland and the European Convention on Human Rights. The complaint was filed by the patient herself.

Kept in isolation for 13 hours

The woman, who suffered from depression and was under the influence of alcohol, had been brought to the first aid clinic of Pohjois-Kymi Hospital by an ambulance. The woman had reported suicidal thoughts, after which she had left the clinic without a doctor's examination. Executive assistance from the police had then been requested to bring her back to the hospital.

On the basis of a telephone consultation, a specialist doctor had given permission to isolate the woman in a secure room and ordered a psychiatric assessment for the following day. The woman was kept in the room for some 13 hours.

In the complaint, she related that she had to relieve herself on the floor, as regardless of her requests, she was not allowed out to use the toilet.

- Intoxication may not be a reason for denying a person appropriate service and treatment, Jääskeläinen notes.

A number of shortcomings in the patient's treatment

The Ombudsman found a number of shortcomings in the treatment and care of the woman.

She only met a doctor for the first time after being isolated for 13 hours. The Ombudsman considers that she should have had a right to be examined by a doctor sooner.

The legislation contains no provisions on the isolation of patients in somatic health care. However, keeping a patient in isolation may be justified under state of necessity or self-defence provisions.

The Ombudsman finds it obvious that the woman was kept in isolation for longer than necessitated by the state of emergency. Her personal freedom had thus been violated.

In the Ombudsman's opinion, she had additionally not been treated with human dignity, nor had she received good quality care, as she was forced to relieve herself on the floor.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman also considers it a serious shortcoming that the hospital neglected to make the necessary and adequate notes in the patient documents. The scarcity of notes obstructed the assessment of the case.

The full text of Parliamentary Ombudsman Petri Jääskeläinen's decision no 3721/4/14, (in Finnish).
Further information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3377.