In a new report released yesterday, the group Disability Rights International castigated “atrocious and abusive conditions” at Mexican institutions for the mentally and physically disabled. This is particularly shocking since a similar report released 10 years ago, highlighting similarly terrible conditions, led the Mexican government to promise reform and take the lead in writing international agreements; these promises, however, seem to have been very empty.
Quoted in a New York Times article, Eric Rosenthal, the director of Disability Rights International, said,
“I have witnessed abuses as atrocious as these in the psychiatric facilities and orphanages of some other countries. But only in Mexico have I encountered a system so lacking in protections that children literally disappear and adults remain nameless.”
At psychiatric hospitals, investigators found an over-reliance on psychotropic drugs instead of treatment for aggression and other behavioral disorders. But, more disturbingly, two hospitals reported sending particularly aggressive patients for lobotomies, a surgical procedure that separates the prefrontal cortext from the rest of the brain, causing irreversible brain damage. Shockingly, the practice is still legal in Mexico.
In a facility for people who are physically disabled, a reporter described a horrifying scene:
“Men walked around half-naked, feces littered a yard, bed sheets were missing, the smell of urine permeated a day room, bathroom faucets malfunctioned and patients lay sprawled on several patches of grass.”
One blind woman reported being raped by a staff member. “I don’t have any hope,” she said. “I don’t have a nickel to get out of this place.”
There was no tracking or registry system for children in these institutions, so many simply disappeared, probably prey for human traffickers.
One thing is clear: the Mexican government needs to stop making false promises and make sure that the disabled are treated like people, and that they’re being hospitalized or institutionalized for the right reasons. Many of the people in these facilities, the report pointed out, don’t need to be there, but their families are forced to abandon them because they don’t have the resources to care for them.
This, simply put, is appalling, and the Mexican government has an obligation to stop making false promises and start taking this issue seriously. Mexico has ratified agreements that it is now accused of violating, and the international community also needs to hold them to a higher standard. The Mexican government, although it received the report yesterday, has made no comment.
Photo from Flickr.