I regularly write about unethical treatment of people with developmental disabilities, such as inappropriate use of restraints or aversives. However, it is mostly far away in the United States where these things happen, and I hear about them from online friends, and write about them because I don’t care where in the world disabled people are treated unethically – the point is that it should end. Now, unfortunately, it’s in my own country that a woman is subjected to harmful and unethical treatment. And, even though I’m afraid it’s by far not the worst case of abuse of the disabled that’s happened, it’s the worst one I’ve written about.
The case concerns a woman with Down Syndrome, who lives in a residential facility. After not being allowed to do an activity she is normally allowed to do, she acted out with aggression. This was not uncommon for her, and usually she’d be locked up into her room for up to an hour if she displayed this behavior. Not now: this time, she was placed in seclusion for 24 days.
I have seen the time-out room of the psychiatric ward where I currently stay. People are not placed in it very easily for disruptive behavior, but one of the ward’s unethical practices is placing people in time-out simply because of lack of space, so I got to see the room when another patient was there. It was better than I’d expected: it has a regular bed and wardrobe, bathroom and its own window and it’s only slightly smaller than a regular room. However, it still isn’t a place I’d want to be locked up into for weeks.
And this is not the type of room the girl was placed in. On the other closed ward, there is an isolation cell that is very small and only has a mattress and a potty in it. This is the type of place the girl was put in, and, as I said, locked up in for 24 days.
In the Netherlands, people cannot be locked up into the “quiet room”, as these places are called euphemistically, for longer than about a week. Also, a specialized doctor should be consulted to determine if isolation is really needed. This happened, but not on time. Also, the appropriate authority wasn’t informed that this girl had been placed in seclusion – while this should have happened. The girl’s treating educator has been made to resign temporarily. I absolutely wonder how qualified the treatment provider really was, if they thought that putting a person in time-out for 24 days is appropriate in any situation.