[Hpn] Landmark case in Israel - Judge decries patients' unjust 'imprisonment'
Morgan W. Brown
Thu, 09 Nov 2000 16:04:58 EST
Hello HPN FT's (Fellow Travelers),
The following forwarded article, which just came my way and is making the
rounds online in certain circles anyway, may be of interest to you and
others you may know.
-------Forwarded article & URL-------
Judge decries patients' unjust 'imprisonment':
Thursday, November 9, 2000
Judge decries patients' unjust 'imprisonment'
By Ran Reznick
Ha'aretz Health Correspondent
Mentally ill patients committed to hospitals in Israel are held in worse
conditions than prisoners, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Saviona Rotlevy
charged in a decision handed down earlier this week. Noting that she has
warned in previous rulings about the sufferings of the mentally ill, Rotlevy
called for lawmakers to take urgent action to ameliorate the situation.
The judge ordered the release of a woman who had been committed to a closed
ward in Abarbanel Hospital in Bat Yam. Rotlevy ruled that her forced
hospitalization was unjustified, and that it involved a series of illegal
proceedings carried out by senior psychiatrists at the Ministry of Health
and attorneys in the State Prosecutor's Office.
The ruling marked the first time that an Israeli judge has referred to
commitment to mental institutions as "imprisonment" and not just
"hospitalization." The Ministry of Health has lobbied against the use of the
term "imprisonment" to refer to forced hospitalization of mentally ill
The patient, a 50-year-old resident of northern Israel, was committed to the
mental hospital in September upon the request of her son. The
hospitalization order was issued by the ministry's deputy psychiatrist in
the Tel Aviv region, Dr. Uzi Shai, and the psychiatrist of the Haifa region,
Dr. Danny Enoch. In addition, psychiatric review boards in Tel Aviv and
Haifa approved orders on three occasions to extend her hospitalization, when
requested by doctors at Abarbanel and the psychiatric hospital in Tirat
The patient's attorney, Ilan Yacobovich, told the court that the doctors
handling her case had placed themselves "above the law" and that "time after
time" the psychiatrists had committed "blatant and systematic violations of
the law." He argued that the regional psychiatrists in Haifa and Tel Aviv
had demonstrated "the miserable status of mental patients' rights in Israel
... not a phenomenon that pertains to only one region."
The judge accepted the attorney's arguments, ruling that "the entire process
of the patient's hospitalization was riddled with errors throughout, and the
ones responsible for this are the regional psychiatrists in Haifa and Tel
Aviv and the psychiatric boards that reviewed her case."
Judge Rotlevy continued: "It gives one goosebumps to read the material in
the medical file. How is it possible that today, in the 21st century, after
the legislation of basic laws, and after nearly 10 years have passed since
the law was amended to prevent the unnecessary commitment of mental
patients, that the various authorities are still ignoring the law's
directives and court rulings, and continue to do whatever they wish
regarding the forced hospitalization of citizens?"
The judge noted that "the patient was defined as posing an immediate
physical danger to herself and her surroundings without this ever being
suitably explained. ... There is indeed a story of slapping her grown son,
but even if this fact were true, it's hard to believe that in the year 2000
this would provide a basis for determining that a person poses physical and
immediate dangers to her surroundings, and that this would justify her
"The situation of forcibly hospitalized mental patients is more difficult
than prisoners, not only because they did not commit any crimes, but because
their dignity is taken from them through medication that often leaves them
without the ability to speak, think, express and react," the judge wrote.
She added that "only a few of those who are unjustly committed to hospitals
gain access to legal representation and the possibility of submitting a
proper appeal to the courts." The judge also noted that the conditions of
their "imprisonment" are not conducive to mounting these appeals, including
the fact that they are often under the influence of medication.
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material
is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed
a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only.**
-------End of forward-------
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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