Thematic Report on Torture in Healthcare Settings
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The Special Rapporteur presented his thematic report on abusive practices in healthcare settings to the twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council in March 2013. In his report, the SRT considers a number of abusive practices commonly reported in healthcare settings, which may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In this sense, he analyses practices such as compulsory detention for medical treatment, violations of reproductive rights, denial of pain treatment, and treatment of persons with psycho-social disabilities and some marginalized groups, including LGBTI, persons who use drugs, and sex workers, and how these “treatments” may constitute a violation of the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
- Read the Special Rapporteur’s Report on Torture in Healthcare Settings
- Read the official press release detailing the SRT’s findings: “When a Health Carer Becomes a Torturer”
- Read the statement delivered by the SRT to the Human Rights Council
Watch this powerful video to hear from the Special Rapporteur on the problem of torture in healthcare settings worldwide!
REACTIONS TO THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR’S REPORT
The Special Rapporteur’s report has generated widespread global discussion, leading to efforts by advocates and policy-makers to grapple with legislative and policy reform as well as to refine definitions of ill-treatment and abuse in health-care settings. Mainstream media sources, including Time Magazine, The Atlantic, Forbes, El Pais, and the Huffington Post, among many others, prominently featured and analyzed the Special Rapporteur’s report. The publication of the report was also covered widely by specialized journals, organizations, academic centers, resource tools and blogs.
Leading medical organizations have responded and engaged with the Special Rapporteur’s report including the Pediatric Endocrine Societies from Europe, Africa, Japan, and Latin America who issued a statement found here. A particularly detailed critique was received from the American Psychiatric Association and the World Psychiatric Association. The letter and the SRT’s detailed response have also been reproduced in the ATI’s follow-up publication on the report.
SELECTED IMPACT OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR’S REPORT
The Special Rapporteur’s report has had significant impact worldwide. NGOs, international organizations, and governments around have been using the report as an advocacy tool and in order to bring about changes in policy and practices in health-care settings. Just several examples of the report’s impact include:
- During its Fourth Plenary Session in June 2013, the OAS General Assembly adopted its Resolution on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity, which explicitly recognized the SRT’s recent thematic report on abusive practices in health-care settings. The Resolution cited the following findings of the report: “[c]hildren who are born with atypical sex characteristics are often subject to irreversible sex assignment, involuntary sterilization, involuntary genital normalizing surgery, performed without their informed consent, or that of their parents, ‘in an attempt to fix their sex,’ leaving them with permanent, irreversible infertility and causing severe mental suffering.”
- The Council of the European Union directly referenced the report in its “Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons,” adopted in June 2013. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution on Children’s Right to Physical Integrity also draws on the report, expressing concern about early childhood medical interventions in the case of intersex children.
- The American National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, has drawn on the Special Rapporteur’s condemnation of the use of aversive treatments like Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GEDs) in the US, and particularly on disabled children at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts, to call on the Government to end such practices and expedite investigations into allegations against the JRC’s practices.
- In March 2013, the Argentinian “Procuraduría General de la Nación” (Office of the Attorney General) adopted a Resolution creating the Office of Institutional Violence as a result of the high rates of torture—which includes deaths in penitentiary centers—and the lack of investigation and accountability. The resolution cited the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s thematic report on abuse in healthcare settings, highlighting concerns regarding the use of electro-shock and forced isolation in penitentiary centers and concluding that the use of either practice amounts to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
- The World Health Organization, the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance, and the European Association for Palliative Care have cited the Special Rapporteur’s conclusion that the denial of pain treatment constitutes an example of abusive practices in healthcare settings and his recommendations in their work and advocacy.
- In an open letter to the Norwegian Government, Amnesty International expressed concerns regarding trans individuals’ enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The letter cited the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s call to States “to outlaw forced or coerced sterilization in all circumstances and provide special protection to individuals belonging to marginalized groups.”