Brochure - Human Rights and Health: Persons with Mental Disabilities


Victor’s Death

Victor staggered toward his mother. She had come to see him at the national mental hospital just two days after she had him admitted there for treatment. He collapsed in front of her, his hands tied behind his back, his body covered in his own urine and feces. His nose was bleeding, his head badly bruised, and his eyes were swollen shut.

Desperate to find help for her son, Victor’s mother ran through the hallways calling for a doctor. When she finally found one, this mental health specialist dismissed her concern out of hand and snapped at her to stop crying. He never bothered to examine Victor, and prescribed medication without ever rising from his desk. He turned out to be the hospital’s director.

She left her son lying naked on the floor of his room. When Victor’s mother returned home from the hospital, she found a message saying that her son was dead.

The medical examiner’s office issued an autopsy finding that ruled Victor’s death as “due to indeterminate causes,” despite obvious signs of inhumane and degrading treatment. Victor’s relatives vowed to take his case to the highest tribunal available to seek retribution for wrongs done to him…

The Inter-American Commission and the Court of Human Rights have reviewed similar cases. Often, States have committed themselves to undertake several measures to redress the wrongs perpetrated against victims and their families. Among other things, States have agreed to establish an internal procedure to investigate and punish those responsible for the violations, to develop a training program for all staff dealing with mental health care and so help them understand how to treat persons with mental disabilities according to principles that conform to international standards, and to remunerate the victims’ relatives to compensate for material and intangible damages.