In Minnesota, a suit over how three developmentally disabled adults were treated received a verdict. The families of these three patients won the suit requiring the facility where the patients were held to pay $3 million dollars.
So what happened to cause the suit? By law, use of restraints is only permissible for the safety of the patients. But staff at this state-run facility were using both metal hand restraints and metal ankle restraints as a punishment when the patients misbehaved. One of the patients’ fathers, a James Jensen, spoke out against the abuse. His son was committed by the state to the facility for a year. He stated that the staff would use handcuffs on the patients and after being there for only a few weeks, his son’s wrists were completely black and blue.
The abuse from staff members on patients using the metal restraints began in 2006 and did not end until early 2008. The only reason it discontinued was the facility was cited by the Minnesota Department of Health, which include 15 violations in all. Because of the lawsuit, as part of the reparations, this state facility is required to no longer use restraints to punish patients for misbehavior.
What’s really awful about the whole ordeal is that Jensen’s son, who is no longer a patient at that facility, still has emotional scars because of living there. Many of the patients who live in that facility have neurological conditions that prevent them from being independent adults, but they’re sweet people who haven’t done anything wrong (such as hurting other people). Most just have impulse control issues that can sometimes lead to misbehaving.
But it wasn’t just the restraints that were seen as abusive. James Brinker said that his son was not only restrained, but also left to lie for long periods of time on his stomach. He has asthma, which made the whole experience even worse. Because people with developmental disabilities often aren’t able to stand up for themselves, the families of these patients knew that they had to stand up and say something.