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Massachusetts Medical Society




Public awareness of the use of restraints in medicine has been greatly heightened by a five-part investigative series on physical restraints in psychiatric hospitals by the Hartford Courant and reaction to it by Connecticut's U.S. senators, Joseph Lieberman and Christopher Dodd. In October 1998 the Courant 's 50-state survey identified 142 patients who had died while in restraints or seclusion in the past decade, and the total number is probably much higher. The newspaper advocated the need for national standards for the use of restraints, impartial oversight, and accountability “for behavior that is cruel and even criminal.” The use of restraints for patients in nursing homes has long been seen as problematic, but concern about their use for patients in general hospitals and psychiatric hospitals had less illumination. New federal regulations should change this.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, The Last Resort: The Use of Physical Restraints in Medical Emergencies, Volume 341, Page 1408 Copyright ©(1999) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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