Abuse of Patients: Despicable Acts Take Advantage of People’s Weakness

Employees at hospitals and welfare facilities continue to abuse patients and residents at these institutions. It is vital to identify the problems on the front lines of care and stop these despicable acts against the vulnerable.

It was found that several male employees are suspected of sexually abusing men and women who were hospitalized at the National Hospital Organization’s Omuta National Hospital in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. According to the hospital, the case came to light after one of the patients reported the acts in December last year and the hospital investigated the situation.

The patients involved have serious disabilities — such as muscular dystrophy, an intractable disease that causes muscle weakness throughout the body — and are therefore unable to move their bodies on their own or have difficulty communicating with others. The accused employees allegedly touched the patients’ breasts or pubic parts when they were with them on a one-on-one basis or at nighttime.

Local governments, which were notified by the hospital based on the law on the prevention of abuse of persons with disabilities, are currently investigating the case. The acts of two staff members have already been recognized as abuse. It is essential to clarify the entire situation and take strict disciplinary action against the people involved.

If necessary, criminal charges against the staff members and others should also be considered.

This was a heinous situation in which multiple employees repeatedly abused many inpatients at the hospital. An atmosphere of disrespect for patients may have prevailed at the facility.

It is important to expand training sessions for employees. The hospital needs to thoroughly establish a system in which staff of the same sex handle bathing and changing diapers for patients, and a team of staff cares for patients so that employees and patients do not interact one-on-one.

At the Daini Sachinomi-en facility for persons with disabilities in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, it was discovered that staff had been abusing the residents, including by assaulting them. The prefectural government intends to impose administrative penalties based on the law on providing comprehensive support for persons with disabilities.

The number of abuse cases by staff members at facilities for the disabled nationwide exceeds 900 each year. The situation is extremely serious.

There have also been a number of abuse cases at psychiatric hospitals. Last year, assaults by nurses on inpatients at Takiyama Hospital in Hachioji, Tokyo, were brought to light.

People with severe disabilities have difficulty in reporting the harm they have suffered, and individuals and their families also tend to hesitate to complain because these people are being taken care of by hospitals or welfare facilities. The people who take care of patients and residents may take advantage of their position and look down on patients or residents.

The abuse that has come to light may be just the tip of the iceberg. It is urgent to establish a consultation service that makes it easier for individuals and their families to complain about abuse.

The law on the prevention of abuse of persons with disabilities and other legislation require people who discovered abuse of persons with disabilities or mental illnesses to report the situation to local governments. It is also important to make such a system well known to the public.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 15, 2024)