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Human dignity of disabled person violated in a psychiatric ward

Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin issued a reprimand to the Welfare District of Päijät-Häme for illegal practices and neglect in the treatment of a patient with cerebral palsy. The patient’s treatment during isolation violated the patient’s human dignity.

Ambiguities in treatment and patient records

There were a number of issues and ambiguities in the complainant’s treatment and patient records. 

In the Deputy-Ombudsman’s opinion, forcing a person with impaired mobility due to cerebral palsy to take their meals sitting on a thin mattress on the floor of a psychiatric ward’s isolation room and with unsuitable dishes and utensils constitutes humiliating and degrading treatment. The patient’s treatment did not respect human dignity and was not consistent with good health care practices.

The complainant wore diapers during the isolation, which lasted for more than 24 hours. 

Due to incomplete patient records, the Deputy-Ombudsman was not able to determine whether the complainant’s rights to be treated with human dignity and receive good health care were fulfilled.  

The Deputy-Ombudsman pointed out that human dignity and high-quality care require the patient’s basic needs to be catered for at all times. Patients must also be actively offered a chance to go to the toilet without having to ask for it. The Deputy-Ombudsman was not convinced that this was the case with the complainant.

In the opinion of the Deputy-Ombudsman, the Welfare District did not make the required patient records of the complainant’s psychiatric care. The scarce and incomplete records hindered the evaluation of the case. The Deputy-Ombudsman considers this to be a major shortcoming.

Recompense and reprimand

In the Deputy-Ombudsman’s opinion, the patient’s treatment during isolation violated the patient’s human dignity. The Deputy-Ombudsman thus recommended that the Welfare District compensate the complainant for the violations of fundamental and human rights to which the complainant was subjected. 

She requested the Welfare District to contact the complainant in an appropriate manner and inform the complainant of the measures it would take by 31 December 2018.

For future reference, the Deputy-Ombudsman also issued a reprimand to the Welfare District for illegal practices and neglect.

The full text (in Finnish) of Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin’s decision 3287/2017 is available on the Ombudsman's website, www.oikeusasiamies.fi. 

Additional information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen, tel. +358 9 432 3377.