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Austria bans cage beds in psychiatric hospitals

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Austria bans cage beds in psychiatric hospitals
A cage bed in an Austrian hospital. Photo: APA (HERBERT PFARRHOFER)
12:50 CEST+02:00
Austria’s Health Ministry has announced a ban on the use of cage beds in psychiatric hospitals and social care institutions, from July 1st, 2015.

A cage bed is a bed with a cage placed on top of it to confine a person inside. Cage beds have metal bars or alternatively netting hung around a four poster metal structure. It is normal for the bed to have one side that can be raised or lowered, and locked in position.

Cage beds have been used both in psychiatric hospitals and social care institutions to restrain mentally ill patients, including children.

Patient representatives, human and civil rights activists and many psychiatrists had opposed the practice for many years.

Campaigners say there is evidence they are sometimes also used as a form of punishment. They argue that the use of cage beds may actually make patients' violence or aggression worse, rather than solving it.

Siegfried Kasper, head of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, at Vienna’s Medical University, told the Austrian Press Agency: "I am firmly convinced that cage beds are unnecessary. I have never worked at a clinic where there has been a need for them." He said that cage beds were traditionally used to discipline the mentally ill.

Cage beds have been used for decades in Austria, and the new law will finally bring the country in line with international human rights policy, the Health Ministry said.

Ombudsman Günther Kräuter welcomed the move. “This practise is still used in Vienna and parts of Styria for the mentally ill and it’s high time it was stopped. This was a long-standing demand of the Ombudsman and its Human Rights Advisory Council…”

He added that it signalled the end of a “dark chapter in Austrian psychiatry”.

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