Helping patients with disabilities in Moldova fight for their rights

4 January 2016. After a fight with her husband in 2002, Maria* was misdiagnosed and admitted to the psychiatric ward of her local hospital. She appealed several times against hospitalization, requesting to be released. Declared by the state to be unstable and in need of guardian consent, her requests were repeatedly refused. She was also deprived of legal representation and her marriage was subsequently dissolved without her knowledge.

Upon learning about the case, Petru Moscaliuc, a patient’s advocate from the Ministry of Health**, began to fight for Maria’s rights. Petru examined the medical documentation and submitted the case to court, which concluded that Maria’s mental health issues posed no barriers to legal capacity.

Highlights

  • Currently, 4000 women and men with disabilities are deprived of their legal capacity.
  • Since 2015, 1,465 patients’ complaints have been processed.
  • 29 cases have been brought to court.

Now Maria is preparing to go home. Had she benefitted from this type of service sooner, she might have avoided a harrowing 13 years of forced hospitalization.

Sadly, the story of Maria is not unique. Currently, in Moldova, 4,000 women and men are deprived of their legal capacity, contrary to the standards of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

To tackle the issue, UNDP in Moldova, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and with financial support from the European Union, has recently established the institution of patient advocates across the country within the Ministry of Health.

“It’s a basic human right to be represented legally in any kind of public establishment. This is about dignity, building opportunities for all and leaving no one behind,” said UNDP in Moldova’s Programme Analyst Evghenii Alexandrovici Golosceapov.

During her visit to Moldova in September 2015, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas-Aguilar was unequivocal:

“I am appalled by what I have seen in these institutions,” she noted. “Children and adults with disabilities are deprived from liberty – sometimes for their entire lives – in unimaginable conditions; neglected and treated in inhuman ways. They have almost no contact with people in the communities.”

The Patients’ Advocate observes and monitors the level of protection afforded to patients frequently subjected to mistreatment, forced medication, and other forms of abuse.

Throughout 2015, Mr. Moscaliuc processed 1,465 patients’ complaints, interviewing and providing information and legal advice to them. As a result, one hundred cases of forced hospitalization were resolved at the administrative level. Mr. Moscaliuc also managed to bring 29 cases to courts. Last but not least, he provided trainings for the psychiatry institutions’ staff on the rights of people with disabilities.

“We are glad to have UNDP as a partners. The mechanism designed together is complex and has strengthened the monitoring and observation functions, integrated personal and professional approaches and helped us to improve the lives of people in Moldova,” said Moscaliuc.

Establishing this position was a major victory for patients in Moldova. While mental health institutions still have a long way to go to protect the rights of their patients, there is now hope for Maria and many other women, men and children.

With the dark days behind her, Maria is now starting a new life back home, and looking forward to a hopeful future.

* Not her real name.

** The position of Patients’ Advocate in Psychiatry Institutions has been piloted in 2012-2014 and institutionalized by the Ministry of Health in October 2014.

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