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DISABILITY-RESEARCH  April 2008

DISABILITY-RESEARCH April 2008

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Subject:

FW: Hello and press release

From:

Colin Barnes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Colin Barnes <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 2 Apr 2008 08:35:24 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (87 lines)

 Dear All  

The following press release sent to me by a friend for circulation gives a good insight into the current situation of 'mental health' systems users and survivors and human rights in Argentina.

Very best wishes

Colin    
-----------------

> The Center for legal and Social studies (CELS) has been working for many years towards ensuring the commitment of the Argentine government to generating public policies that guarantee and promote all the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with mental disabilities, and to guaranteeing their full social inclusion.
> 
> In September 2007, we issued the report "Ruined Lives: Segregation from Society in Argentina's Psychiatric Asylums" produced jointly with MDRI (Mental Disability Rights International).
 
> The report documents human rights violations against the 25,000 people currently detained in Argentine psychiatric institutions. This publication presented the results of research carried out by CELS and MDRI between June 2004 and July 2007. The teams visited numerous institutions in Argentina where people with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities were detained, and interviewed public officials, professionals, inmates, and non-government organizations.
> 
> The press article attached below points out several unresolved issues, and it highlights the fact that developing socially inclusive alternatives to segregation in psychiatric asylums must be part of the public agenda in Argentina.
> 
> 12/03/2007. Clarín
> A RECENT SUPREME COURT RULING PLACES THE ISSUE OF THE CONFINEMENT AND 
> TREATMENT OF PEOPLE WHOM SOCIETY PREFERS TO IGNORE BACK ON THE PUBLIC 
> AGENDA.
> 
> Alfredo Kraut
> Legal Secretary (Secretario Letrado) at the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice, professor at the UBA (University of Buenos Aires).
> 
> There are several unresolved issues in the Argentine public agenda that lacerate human dignity.
> 
> One such issue is the problem of unvoluntary commitment to psychiatric institutions and the violation of the human rights of mental patients, who suffer discrimination and are part of the most vulnerable sectors 
> of society.
> 
> A recent report by Mental Disability Rights International (Ruined Lives: Segregation from Society in Argentina's Psychiatric Asylums. A report on Human Rights and Mental Health in Argentina, MDRI, CELS, 2006), demonstrates that human rights violations including, but not only, the right to liberty, are particularly conspicuous among people detained in mental asylums.
> 
> The report proves that "this massive institutionalization is the result, fundamentally, of misguided policy decisions that translate into the misallocation of significant government resources, and the failure to develop specific policies directed toward community-based mental health care.
> 
> One alarming figure that emerges from this research is that 95% of the 25,000 people currently detained in psychicatric institutions have been there for nine years.
> 
> Moreover, according to the Mental Health Coordination Unit of the National Health Ministry, 60% of the 18,750 people currently detained in public health centres are social patients; that is, patients who have been discharged by their doctors but cannot leave because they have nowhere to go.
> 
> However, mental health problems have nothing to do with long-term psychiatric confinement ("hospitalism"). Exclusion and abandonment are corollaries of misery; that is how the 
> hospice-asylum-deposit-segregation phenomenon takes place.
> 
> In this context, WHO pronouncements regarding psychiatric recovery and resocialisation, which Argentina has ratified, are a chimera. With rare exceptions, people with mental problems do not pose a risk to themselves or others. In spite of this, a generalised prejudice against a "dangerous mad person" is the main justification for the tendency to isolate them from society and lock them up.
> 
> International human rights standards, however, limit confinement and retention in psychiatric institutions to those cases in which this measure is essential and part of the patient's treatment.
> 
> The Supreme Court turned this criteria into doctrine with its  judgement on  "T., R. A. s/commitment" (rulings: 328:4832), when it noted that involuntary commitments must be limited to circumstances where "there is a serious risk of immediate or imminent harm to that person or to others".
> 
> There is no serious evidence that someone can meet such requirements to justify enforced confinement sine die, without the backing of various detailed specialist reports, including recommendations on commitment, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. Moreover, according to our current legal framework, any instances of deprivation of liberty must be rigourously monitored by the judicial system, as the Supreme Court asserted in the above judgement, with special regard for the "vulnerability, frailty, impotence and abandonment which people subjected to involuntary commitment to a psychiatric institution usually suffer".
> 
> A new case recently caught the attention of the High Court. It 
> involved a young man who committed a serious infraction when he was fourteen, who was initially declared immune from prosecution and later, in 1982, legally incompetent. This person was deprived of liberty because he was deemed "dangerous to himself and others". The evidence produced in support of this claim was a dubious legal-medical report, half a page long, which was used to justify the adoption of measures that had no time limit. The young man was detained in different psychiatric institutions, without judicial oversight, for over 25 years.  
> 
> This case -"R., M.J. s/insanity"-must be considered emblematic in terms of the protection of the human rights of people suffering from mental problems. That was the view of the Court when it reached a unanimous decision to order an urgent report on his psychological and physical conditions, 
> and the state of his detention.
> 
> The High Court thus highlighted the urgent need to "fully guarantee the right to due process which, in the national and international legal frameworks, implies ensuring that psychiatric commitments are appropriate, limited  in time and in line with constitutional parameters, since both the decision to commit and to retain a patient in a  psychiatric institution is part of a process that must guarantee every safeguard aganst arbitrary detentions".
> 
> "There were never - it pointed out-any updates regarding medical check-ups, nor were any reports about treatments provided with a view to eventually discharging the patient and continuing treatment in a day care centre, in order to complete his reintegration into the community"
> 
> The most enduring contribution of the Court's ruling, however, goes beyond this abhorrent case. The ruling reveals a dark side of our society to anyone willing to see it.
> 
> The Court has thankfully taken a first step in the right direction by emphasizing the need to safeguard the fundamental rights of mental patients. This is paving the way for patients in psychiatric wards to begin to regain their status as persons. Beyond the judiciary, it is our duty as a society to take responsibility for the problem. Only thus will we be able to adress our shameful failings towards humilliated and abandoned people.
> 
>  
> 
> www.cels.org.ar <http://www.cels.org.ar>  | [log in to unmask] 
> <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> 
> Piedras 547 1º piso [C1070AAK] Bs As. Argentina |
> (+54 11) 4334 4200




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