Patient sues Quebec psychiatrist and mental hospital where he was treated ("like an animal")

November 9, 2010

A Quebec City man is suing a mental hospital and his psychiatrist for a total of $150,000 for putting him in isolation, without a bathroom or a light, for almost 1,200 hours over a three-month period.

The 32 year-old man alleges he was physically abused -he suffered a broken rib -and humiliated during his stay this year at Quebec City's Robert Giffard Hospital.

He contends he had to urinate and defecate on the floor of the small, windowless isolation room, furnished only with a platform used as a bed.

The room had no toilet, and staff refused to take the man to the bathroom on a number of occasions and didn't clean up his feces immediately, the lawsuit alleges.

"I was treated like an animal," the plaintiff told the hospital ombudsman when he filed a complaint in May.

The ombudsman, who filed a report in June on the man's accusations, found his complaint was justified and blamed hospital management for "abusive" use of isolation.

The ombudsman noted the patient was sometimes kept in isolation because of a lack of personnel, notably during lunch breaks. The report pressed the hospital to stop this practice immediately and remove the man from his psychiatrist care, as there had been a breach of trust.

A hospital spokeswoman called the situation "deplorable" and stressed the hospital enforced the ombudsman's recommendations swiftly.

The patient, who has asked the court to keep his name confidential and was called Michel by his lawyer, checked himself into the century-old hospital in December 2009 during a psychotic episode, according to information contained in the lawsuit and the ombudsman's report.

His situation deteriorated quickly because he refused to take his medication, his lawyer noted. The hospital started procedures to get a court order to force him to take his medication in January, but it was not before the end of April that the hospital filed the motion in court.

In the meantime, Michel was kept in isolation for his inconsistent behaviour.

Michel is now being treated at another hospital.

Source: Marianne White, "Patient sues psychiatrist and mental hospital," Montreal Gazette, November 5, 2010.


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