TOKYO — A New Zealand family says it wants to be a catalyst for change in mental health care in Japan, following the death of a family member who went into cardiac arrest after being restrained in a hospital for 10 days.
Kelly Robert Savage, who was working as an English teacher in Japan, was admitted to Yamato Hospital outside of Yokohama in late April after experiencing manic episodes related to his bipolar disorder.
He was immediately strapped down because the hospital thought he might become agitated, said his older brother Patrick Savage, who accompanied him at the time.
Kelly went into cardiac arrest after 10 days and was transferred to Yamato Municipal Hospital, where he died seven days later.
The family suspects the death was caused by deep-vein thrombosis resulting from his immobility, and blames the hospital for what it says was inhumane use of physical restraint.
His mother and his brother held a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday with a Japanese expert to share their experience and call for action to stop the practice in “Japan’s broken psychiatric system,” as Patrick said.
“The world needs to know what’s happening, and Japan needs to act immediately to stop it,” he said.
Naoki Kinomoto, a lawyer for Yamato Hospital, said he could not comment because it has been served notice of legal action.
Toshio Hasegawa, a professor at Kyorin University in Tokyo, said at the news conference that psychiatric patients in Japan are restrained for an average of 96 days, while in other countries restraint lasts for only a few hours.
There are about 10,000 psychiatric patients currently under physical restraint, roughly 3.4 percent of the 290,000 patients being treated in psychiatric hospitals, said Hasegawa, who is researching the use of isolation and physical restraint in psychiatric hospitals in Japan and abroad.
“Unless each and every Japanese person considers human rights seriously, and forms a society that is able to protect human rights, I do not think this practice of physical restraints will die out,” he said.