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Restraining High-Risk Patients Sometimes a Necessary Evil

Jul 8, 2019

Health-care staff are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the restraint of high-risk patients, says Toronto health lawyer Brooke Shekter.

The Hamilton Spectator recently reported on the case of a man who launched a human rights complaint against a local hospital for his treatment during a mental health crisis.

The man is seeking $25,000 from the facility and police in compensation for the “mental trauma” and humiliation he suffered while handcuffed and barefoot in the busy public waiting room, surrounded by police officers and security guards, the Spectator reported.

Shekter, associate with TTL Health Law, tells AdvocateDaily that she has sympathy for the man’s plight, but hospital staff are placed in a difficult position when patients present an apparent danger to themselves or others. 

“If he hadn’t been restrained and then hurt someone, the hospital could have been blamed,” she explains. “It’s understandable that he would have been embarrassed. But at the same time, in a publicly funded health-care system like ours, when you go to the emergency room you must expect to wait, and the amount of time it takes is necessarily dictated by the severity of your condition.

“There is no other way for our system to operate in order for health professionals to deliver timely and efficient health care to patients. And anyone who has any experience with an emergency room in Ontario knows that 15 minutes is, quite frankly, a very short period of time in the grand scheme of things,” Shekter adds. 

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