This year I have interviewed dozens of people who have told me how aged care facilities drugged their parents, grandparents, husbands, wives and neighbours, writes Bethany Brown in the Sydney Morning Herald.
For years, Australia had no law or rules to stop the practice of controlling people’s behaviour with drugs without a medical purpose, a practice known as chemical restraint. In January the government announced it would prepare a new regulation, purportedly to minimise the use of chemical restraint.
But we challenged the regulation in May on the grounds that it did not protect older people’s human rights to informed consent, among other rights. In July, a parliamentary committee on human rights announced an inquiry into the regulation’s compliance with Australia’s international human rights obligations.
Last week, the committee released its report on the regulation.
It says it considers that where restraint without informed consent is used it “engages and may limit a number of human rights”.
However, it does not recommend that the regulation be disallowed. In fact, it offers weak recommendations that do not come close to addressing the problems its own inquiry set out. Labor and Greens party members filed a dissenting report, calling for the Senate’s disallowance of the regulation.
Given the attention to this issue, and the Royal Commission’s call for urgent action on chemical restraint, this is a missed opportunity to call for real reform.
Giving people choice to stay connected and the support they need to eat a meal, bathe, or spend time with loved ones, should not be controversial. It’s the bare minimum any of us need to lead a dignified life.
Bethany Brown is a Human Rights Watch researcher on older people’s human rights.
Insidious practice of ‘chemical restraint’ needs stronger action (Sydney Morning Herald)