Birkeland, S. Gildberg, F.A. 2016 Mental health nursing, mechanical restraint measures and patients’ legal rights. Vol. 2016. No. 10. pp. 8-14. The Open Nursing Journal. Short Communication Article, peer reviewed, Status: Published.
Coercive mechanical restraint (MR) in psychiatry constitutes the perhaps most extensive exception from the common health law requirement for involving patients in health care decisions and achieving their informed consent prior to treatment. Coercive measures and particularly MR seriously collide with patient autonomy principles, pose a particular challenge to psychiatric patients’ legal rights, and put intensified demands on health professional performance. Legal rights principles require rationale for coercive measure use be thoroughly considered and rigorously documented. This article presents an in-principle Danish Psychiatric Complaint Board decision concerning MR use initiated by untrained staff. The case illustrates that, judicially, weight must be put on the patient perspective on course of happenings and especially when health professional documentation is scant, patients’ rights call for taking notice of patient evaluations. Consequently, if it comes out that psychiatric staff failed to pay appropriate consideration for the patient’s mental state, perspective, and expressions, patient response deviations are to be judicially interpreted in this light potentially rendering MR use illegitimated. While specification of law criteria might possibly improve law use and promote patients’ rights, education of psychiatry professionals must address the need for, as far as possible, paying due regard to meeting patient perspectives and participation principles as well as formal law and documentation requirements.