Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Not just for Valentine's gifts

Britain's National Health Service is considering a return to mechanical restraints, says the Guardian here and here: "The use of straitjackets to control mental patients has long been discredited in Britain as inhumane and dangerous. So why has the NHS been examining whether to introduce controversial state-of-the-art mechanical restraints?"

The straitjacket, the restraining garment that came to symbolise the harsh treatment of mental health patients, may return, with the NHS considering its reintroduction in a modern form.

Some members of an influential government group looking into how to manage violent and aggressive patients have been in talks with a US firm that manufactures and sells restraints. The group includes police and health service officials.

A member of the group, who asked to remain anonymous, said there were "clear signs of moves to re-introduce mechanical restraints as standard. That restraints could once again be in wide use is seriously worrying."

Handle With Care, the US company at the centre of the controversy, sells a range of restraining products, including a "ParaBed" that secures a patient's arms, feet and torso, leaving them incapable of movement. The devices, marketed under the name, Soft Circle Products, are on sale only in the US, but the firm's owner, Bruce Chapman, is aiming to break into the UK market.

Mr Chapman, a former psychiatric nurse who was stabbed in the chest while trying to subdue a patient during a violent incident in the 70s, defended his products. "With my products, properly supervised, the patient is safe and is treated with respect."

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