‘Disturbing Staff Abuses,’ ‘Serious Staff Violations’ of Law at DC’s St. Elizabeths Hospital


From Washington City Paper: “In January, more than a dozen staff members at St. Elizabeths Hospital—the District’s only public psychiatric hospital—carried out a premeditated ambush of an apparently calm patient. They surrounded him as he was standing calmly in a common space, and dragged him to another room where they tied his arms and legs down to a bed, pulled down his pants, and injected him with psychotropic medication. They then left him tied to that bed for hours, according to a new report by a prominent D.C. disability rights group.

Then in April, hospital staff kept another patient—who had untreated, undiagnosed fractures in his hip and arm—tied by all four limbs to a bed for almost two hours. Staff were the ones who broke his bones, and it was almost 24 hours before the man received treatment for his injuries.

And over the course of April and May, counter to hospital policy, staff used extreme measures to restrict the movement of a third patient, who is a survivor of sexual abuse, seven times. Sometimes, staff pulled her pants down in front of male staff members to inject medicine into her buttocks; they repeatedly tied her to a bed or locked her up alone in a room, leaving her there for up to four hours.

These incidents are detailed in the report that the Disability Rights DC (DRDC) program at University Legal Services—an organization that monitors treatment quality at various hospitals in D.C. and advocates for disability rights—sent to the hospital and to the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) (which operates St. Elizabeths) on Wednesday. The report describes multiple instances where DRDC claims St. Elizabeths illegally used restraint. Restraint is a controversial practice where staff control a patient by restricting their freedom of movement, generally by either physically holding them down or tying their arms and legs to a bed, and in the report, DRDC severely criticizes the hospital for using the technique far too liberally. The result, according to DRDC, has been ‘serious staff violations’ of federal and local law and ‘disturbing staff abuses’ toward patients.

Restraints were once a rare occurrence at St. Elizabeths. In the past several years, though, the hospital’s use of the technique has increased astronomically. According to the hospital’s public performance reports, in 2013, they placed patients in restraints only four times all year. In 2018, the annual count was 782. (The average daily patient population didn’t change much between those years; it was 261 in 2013 and 270 in 2018.)

‘That’s unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable. That’s more than twice a day,’ says Debbie Plotnick, vice president of the mental health advocacy group Mental Health America. ‘Restraint should be a last resort… There’s clearly something wrong with that picture.'”

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  1. Good article and wow you have lawyers in the US who actually do something about abuses rather than work with the abusers to cover up the problems?
    We had a situation here in my State where they were breaking a few too many necks during restraints. What they didn’t talk about was how staff provoke violence from patients in order to make their conduct meet the standards set before using violence against them. Ie if you can get a patient to use the word “no” then you can justify the use of force for anything. Another example being contradictory instructions sit down/stand up means you can not comply with both requests and your now up for being jumped by 15 security.
    I like the last comment in the article “Having a mental illness is not a crime, but treating someone with a mental illness like a criminal is, in fact, a crime”. Shame our police don’t understand this and regularly exercise their discretionary powers to enable systemic abuses of those labelled patients. Even to the point where you can break someones neck and not be held to account.
    Lawyers that actually speak up about abuses, well ya learn something new every day. Because the folk here in my State at the Mental Health Law Centre tell me they don’t even know what a burden of proof is. And they have put that in writing for me. That level of incompetence is more than just negligent, it is positively dangerous for all concerned. Would you allow these folk to examine if the welfare of your loved one had been violated? Abuses could run rampant and no one would even notice, in fact this explains a number of failures on the part of our community to even notice abuses which have eventually come to light. So who benefits from this type of negligence on the part of these lawyers? And are they rewarded for it in any way?
    Suspect on reasonable grounds, the standard legal protection against arbitrary detentions they tell me has been rewritten (without parliament being involved) to suspect on grounds we believe to be reasonable which means that they can snatch anyone off the street or as in my case from their beds for any reason they like, and this can not be questioned. Now to me the use of arbitrary detentions by public officers is a concern. But one of the lawyers at the MHLC tells me that the public being protected from this is “not in the spirit of the Act”. How could such a lawyer be a protection against human rights abuses when she doesn’t know what the protections afforded are? Still, I guess she is used to abusing her position of trust and throwing a few victims under a bus for authorities. I’m sure her career will be paved with gold. Disgraceful
    In fact, one of the protections under the law is the completion of a statutory declaration to list the reasonable grounds for detaining a person. Now a smart criminal might notiice that they could make it sound like they had reasons to detain when they didn’t. But if lawyers fail to put this sworn testimony to the test then the said crims have a free reign to do these arbitray detentions and no one will be held to account. Which is PRECISELY what is occurring in my State. Want to snatch a citizen from their bed, fill out a fraudulent stat dec and ensure it is not put to the test. The victims lawyers will assist in this matter. Can I prove it, you bet I can. I don’t know how these people sleep at night

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    • I also note the prohibition against the use of punishment in these type of facilities.
      I was subjected to the use of punishment by a Senior Medical Officer whilst being held against my will. I requested a complaint form and the use of a pen from the nurse who had been appointed to me. I completed the Form which is for all intents and purposes an allegation of a violation of human rights. I then returned the Form to my nurse and requested a copy of it.
      Some time later I made an inquiry about what had been done regarding my complaint. What complaint? An ‘investigation’ was done by the complaints officer and it was found that they couldn’t find any record of my written complaint, and that nurses had been reminded of their duty to ensure that such complaints were actioned correctly. They also requested a copy of my copy.
      Now here’s the thing. I did my own investigation into what occurred and the nurse tells me that he placed the written complaint regarding doctors conduct into the correct tray for actioning. (So the complaints officers ‘investigation’ was nothing of the sort, she simply found a means to lay the blame on a nurse, and conceal what may constitute serious criminal misconduct.) And nurses had not been reminded of their duty to ensure such serious allegations were actioned. No one had asked the nurse concerned about the matter at all. They just make sh&t up.
      The doctor who I was complaining about would have seen this written complaint and instead of allowing others to know of his alleged abuse, had ensured that it went into the bin rather than be actioned. And this is how they deal with allegations of human rights abuses in my State. I guess they are not used to people who they inject with ‘chemical restraints’ asking for copies of important documents. Documents that may be required by such authorties as the Corruption and Crime Commission, and which have large prison terms attached to should one be convicted of destroying or rendering illegible. Still, where doctors concerned i’m sure they can overlook this serious criminal act of misconduct. Why not given the sort of stuff they are calling medicine. Mind you it does compromise those who are obstructing justice on these matters. Careful because changes in power structure might result in someone checking the facts. And now your in someone elses pocket
      This is all very typical of enabled abusers. It’s how people entrusted with the care of children got away with raping hundreds of them over a period of 30 years, and no one noticed.Well, I say no one noticed, they did but they just ensured that any complaints were dealt with via pre determined outcomes. Wonder no more about how it happened people, it was yourselves that allowed these things to occur. Look in the mirror, not to the scapegoats who are now doing a little time in prison.

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  2. “But above all, Plotnick says, it’s a matter of making sure that when psychiatric patients go into a hospital, they receive therapy there, not punishment. ‘Having a mental illness is not a crime,’ she tells City Paper, slowly and emphatically. ‘But treating someone with mental illness like a criminal is, in fact, a crime.’”

    But since the “mental health” workers regularly commit such crimes, and are NOT being punished for their abusive and criminal maltreatment of innocent people, the “mental health” workers’ crimes just magnify. And the real truth is “treating” an innocent person, who was defamed with a scientifically “invalid” “mental illness, like a criminal is, in fact, a[n appallingly unjust] crime.'”

    One of the doctors who unjustly and medically unnecessarily force treated me, for profit, was finally FBI convicted for fraud and similar crimes against many innocent people, who also did not need medical care.


    But his psychiatric “snowing” partner in crime was never even investigated, arrested, or charged for her criminal behavior. The criminally abusive “mental health” workers need to start being arrested for their greed inspired abuse of DSM defamed, innocent people.

    How a society turns the ethical, non-antiestablishment people within their society, into antiestablishment people … take away the checks and balance systems in their society, and give the scientifically “invalid” psychiatrists complete control. Well, it took a little more systemic criminal behavior to get us to the point …

    “We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

    Upside down and backwards, America. I painted this sad reality in 2005. How long will it take for the masses to listen to us “insightful,” “too truthful,” and “prophetic” canaries in the coal mine?

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  3. It’s good to see Disability Rights DC taking notice, and doing it’s job. As long as there is some kind of effort mounted to change things, there is the possibility of doing so. I dread to think of how bad the situation might be if Disability Rights DC wasn’t there to fight it.

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    • The Mental Health Law Centre was being used as a ‘venus fly trap’ in my State. Attracting victims in with the hope of receiving effective legal representation, finding out what the victim had by way of evidence, and then throwing them under the bus and going for lunch with the Minister.
      Go ahead deny it you fukn scabs. And haven’t you done a big favour for those who actually do their jobs and represent their clients effectively, rather than pretend they don’t know the law and hand on ‘poison pen’ letters to folk in the hope it will cause their suicide.

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