FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NATIONAL REPORT REVEALS LETHAL CONSEQUENCES OF RESTRAINT USED ON PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Equip for Equality releases national report on restraint-related deaths of children, adults, including seniors, exposing a national crisis warranting Congressional action
CHICAGO (OCTOBER 11, 2011) –Equip for Equality released today its landmark study examining deaths resulting from physical and mechanical restraints of persons with disabilities. The Lethal Consequences of Restraints, a special report issued by Equip for Equality’s Abuse Investigation Unit, is a comprehensive and thorough investigation of deaths resulting from physical and mechanical restraints, representing a groundbreaking examination of deaths across disabilities, settings, ages, and genders.
“The risk that restraint poses to people with disabilities, so well documented in this report, is heightened by an oversight system that remains seriously flawed. Currently, there is no comprehensive system to monitor restraint usage and enforce compliance with the law,” said Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “We need to mandate enhanced government oversight of restraint usage to end this national crisis and prevent future deaths.”
Equip for Equality’s study closely examined the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 61 people with disabilities, ranging in age from nine to 95 years, who had been subjected to various restraint techniques for a variety of reasons in general hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, wilderness camps, nursing homes, schools, emergency rooms, and other health-system facilities. The report found that the use of restraints was a significant factor contributing directly or indirectly to the death in virtually every case. Nearly 15 percent of the deaths were ruled homicides by the coroner or medical examiner.
“For the first time, we have taken a comprehensive look at deaths from restraint across the country, revealing that the use of restraints continues to represent a significant risk to adults and children in any setting where these practices are used,” said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "It is appalling that people with disabilities across the country are routinely being subjected to unsafe interventions that lead to their untimely deaths."
One death scrutinized in the study was that of a 104-pound, 9-year-old boy who was suffocated during a physical restraint after he refused to follow a counselor’s instruction. In another case, an 88-year-old woman was found dead on the floor of her nursing home with a wheelchair restraining lap belt around her neck. The restraining lap belt had been deemed unsafe by nursing home staff three times prior to her death.
Other significant findings of the study include:
- The largest percentage of those who died had been admitted to a general hospital unit and only 26 percent occurred in psychiatric hospitals
- Of those with a pre-existing medical condition, nearly one-third had one or more medical conditions that contraindicated the use of restraint or should have precluded its use
- Nearly half of those who died had limited or no communication skills, due to medical circumstances
- In a majority of the deaths, dangerous restraint methods were utilized, and in one-third of the deaths, unlawful restraints were utilized
- Most of the individuals died from being asphyxiated, or as a result of heart disease exacerbated by the restraint
A restraint is any device or procedure that is designed to restrict movement, such as a physical hold by a staff member, a mechanical device, or even a chemical drug. Bed rails, which were the second leading device involved in the deaths examined in this study, are not considered restraints under current federal standards. Deaths in connection with the use of bed rails are not subject to existing restraint death reporting laws.
Equip for Equality conducted its landmark study with medical, nursing and forensic experts who in addition to co-authoring the report provided in-depth analysis of each death. The study was done in cooperation with the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN), which is the national organization for the Protection and Advocacy Systems and with a number of protection and advocacy organizations from different states across the country.
The study’s unprecedented scope and critical findings document the urgent need for systematic changes http://www.equipforequality.org/publications/national-death-study.pdf in facilities and settings across the country. It provides compelling evidence of the need to dramatically enhance efforts to reduce and eliminate reliance on restraint and prohibit dangerous practices.
“The lethal consequences of restraint for children and adults with disabilities will only be eliminated if the use of restraint is no longer tolerated,” said Deborah M. Kennedy, Director of the Abuse Investigation Unit, Equip for Equality and one of the study’s authors.
About Equip for Equality:
Designated in 1985 as the federally funded Protection and Advocacy System for people with disabilities in Illinois, Equip for Equality’s mission is to advance the human and civil rights of people with all types of disabilities in Illinois. At the national level, Equip for Equality is the single site of a multi-year National Demonstration Project funded directly by Congress to enhance the health and safety of people with disabilities. Equip for Equality provides self-advocacy assistance, legal services, and disability rights education while also engaging in public policy and legislative advocacy and conducting abuse investigations and other oversight activities. For more information, www.equipforequality.org