It is a little-known fact that in our midst, there are unscrupulous psychiatrists who routinely violate the Fundamental Right of Life and Liberty of hundreds of persons every month, motivated by greed. They swindle families into handing them large amounts of money to “treat” their loved ones in an illegal manner, sometimes even for minor symptoms like stress. In some cases, family members connive with the doctor to have the so-called patient locked away in a mental hospital. This happens especially in families that are in midst of property disputes.
Often, the victim is abducted from home with the help of illiterate security people, who do not understand that what they are doing is kidnapping. The victim is transported in ambulances that may or may not be legally licensed. He is then illegally held in dirty psychiatric wards for months, kept out of his senses with forcibly-administered psychotropic drug injections and pills, shock therapy and physical torture, and not allowed to meet even his close friends and relatives.
As is the case with victims of rape, patients who have undergone such experiences are too traumatized to complain. Many keep silent, fearing that nobody will believe them!
Pushpa, who runs Earth First Mumbai, has come across many such cases, and has collecting evidence of such malpractices over the past decade. She reported some cases to MHRC in 2003 and 2004. She had an FIR filed against Getwell Nursing Home in Bandra, which was later closed down. She also initiated action against Chaitanya Hospital in Pune. In recent weeks, she exposed a hub of this racket in a Mumbai Mirror front page story headlined: “Health chiefs raise alarm on Masina’s house of horrors; City’s foremost mental hospital uses banned therapies, detains patients illegally”. The 110-year-old Masina Hospital was slammed by in a report of the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) for rampant violations of the Mental Health Act 1987.
Mumbai Mirror article: http://tinyurl.com/MasinaExpose
The Mental Health Act clearly states in Chapter IV section 19 (1)(2)(3)(4), and section 20, that “reception order” from the District Magistrate is needed in the case of forcible confinement or treatment. Contrary to what unscrupulous psychiatrists lead people to believe, it is not enough to have the relatives’ consent. It is necessary for the relatives to apply to a magistrate for the reception order along with medical certificates from two psychiatrists, one of whom should be a Government doctor. The magistrate is supposed to issue the reception order only after seeing the case and understanding if such treatment and confinement is necessary.
Mental Health Law and its violations: http://tinyurl.com/mentalviolations
Jyoti Shelar, the Mumbai Mirror journalist who reported the above case, received letters from victims of this racket. Here is one such letter:
This is with reference to your front page article on Mumbai Mirror dated 3-1-2011. I was a patient in Masina Hospital from for a period of 110 days. All the allegations made on the hospital in your article are true. Patients are brought without consent if the relatives are willing to shell out an initial sum of 20,000 Rs. They are subjected to shock therapy in the early morning (6:30 am) followed by unnecessary doses of psychotropic drugs which leave them mentally shattered and intellectually paralysed, but thats not all, the patients are subjected to severe physical torture as well, the ward boys regularly beat up the patients who are also gagged and tied for hours at a stretch if they demand to meet their family or ask for better food. Unable to take this torture I plotted with an inmate to escape from this hell by opening the window grill and jumping, though my friend escaped I was caught. I was beaten up so brutally by the ward boys and the resident doctor that I could not walk for a week and was coughing up blood, from that day onwards I was tortured every day not even allowed to meet my family for 3 weeks. Every friday an ambulance comes and escorts some patients to Chaitanya Hospital, Pune and illegally detains them there on the reference of Dr.Matcheswalla. There are a number of patients like me who are tortured every day in some way or the other.
I went into trauma after being discharged and attempted suicide by burning myself. I was admitted to Bhatia hospital and have since recovered. Some patients have done it by hanging themselves from the fans in their wards using the bed sheets but there are still many patients like me and their plight is no better than mine.
I am grateful to Mumbai Mirror for publishing this article on their front page and bringing this issue to peoples notice.
I am willing to offer any help and cooperation that may be needed to take this matter further.
Please take up this matter with the human rights commission and give us all justice.
Kindly publish this letter in your esteemed newspaper and inform me about the same
Thanking you in anticipation.
(Note: The person’s identity details have been concealed.)
We have also received copies of the email correspondence of the relative of another patient, who paid several lakh rupees to Dr Yusuf Matcheswala, head of psychiatry ward at Masina hospital, and followed up on him for years to get receipts for the treatment, and also the diagnosis report, which he was reluctant to give. She too has collected evidence against on Dr Matcheswala.
Such human rights violations appear to be quite widespread. They seem to be practiced even in prestigious institutions like AIIMS Delhi and NIMHANS Bangalore.
The Mental Health Dept under the State’s Director of Health Services is supposed to routinely carry out monthly checks on every mental nursing home and hospital in accordance with the Mental Health Act Chapter V section 37 and 38. It is their duty to check whether patients have been brought there in compliance of the Mental Health Act, and whether the conditions at the hospitals are conducive to the well-being of the patient. But needless to say, they not only fail to conduct checks, they also issue licenses arbitrarily to unsuitable nursing homes and hospitals, turn a blind eye to unlicensed nursing homes unlawfully confining and “treating” psychiatric patients, and pretend ignorance of many rampant malpractices.
We are gathering evidence in order to expose such malpractices and see that justice is done by the victims by filing PILS and necessary FIRS. Also, we would like to create a help-group of people with similar experiences to come and heal each other emotionally and take action against such inhuman and illegal practices.
Hence, kindly forward this email to your acquaintances.
If you were made a victim of this racket, or you know someone who was a victim, please contact human rights activist Pushpa Tolani firstname.lastname@example.org , or call her helpline Mob 0 98201 04091.