Vitsebsk doctor Ihar Pastnou: Law on psychiatric care contrary to Constitution
Vitsebsk doctor Ihar Pastnou sent an application to the Constitutional Court urging the supreme judicial body to assess certain provisions of the Law "On psychiatric Care”. Ihar Pastnou believes that the law is unconstitutional, as it legitimizes violations of patients' rights.
In his letter, the doctor cites his own experience. Following a number of critical videos posted online and repeated warnings from the authorities for criticizing the state of healthcare facilities and management of the region, Ihar Pastnou was subjected to forced psychiatric treatment. This was authorized by the court, which did not hear the doctor himself or his lawyer. Moreover, at that time he could not find a lawyer.
“Under the current law on psychiatric care, the doctor has the right to restrict the rights of the patient - to prohibit correspondence, visits and so on. This is what I faced: I was locked, they kept saying that I was alone and no one would help me. And I did not know that human rights defenders, politicians and journalists were fighting for my release. Even the lawyer was not allowed to see me at once, and they just did not take me to the court without allowing to say anything in my defense,” says Ihar Pastnou.
The petition to the Constitutional Court was prepared with the help of Vitsebsk human rights activist Piotr Ivanov. He also believes that the Law requires changes:
“This law is unconstitutional. We know that the rights and freedoms of citizens is the ultimate goal of the State, in accordance with Paragraph 1 of Article 21 of the Constitution. But this supreme goal is substituted for other purposes. The preamble states: “This law aims at defining the legal and institutional basis of state regulation in the field of mental health care, and to ensure respect for the rights of the patient.” So, first comes state regulation, and then human rights. This is the basis for the application of punitive psychiatry.”
Ihar Pastnou, himself a psychiatrist at the Vitsebsk psychiatric clinic, is strongly opposed to the situation when the patient is completely dependent on the doctor:
“The doctor can isolate the patient from the world, and he would not contact a lawyer, would not be able to talk about humiliation and violence. Well, doctors are also people, with their weaknesses. And this law is the ground for abuse. Indeed, one can get to mental hospital for criticizing the authorities or as a result of any residential or monetary swindle. The doctor can be pressed or bribed – doctors also earn little, and suddenly someone is tempted... So that it is unacceptable when the patient's fate is decided solely by his doctor, as is provided by Article 40 of the Law.”
Mr. Pastnou says he is not intimidated by psychiatric treatment, and he is still willing to criticize the shortcomings he can see. But he says the recent claims from the administration of his clinic do not relate to his previous critical statements:
“Once I told reporters that I was doing injections to Siarhei Ryzhou, I was warned about the inadmissibility of providing services without a license. But it is not service, I do it for free, because it is my duty to help the patient. On November 16, Siarhei Ryzhou was taken to a detoxification center. He says he was beaten there, and I myself have seen the bruises. Besides, Ryzhou has hepatitis, and they did not even take a blood test, did not check the condition of internal organs when he told the doctor he was unwell after his stay at the detoxification center. Such things should be addressed by the Investigative Committee, instead of reproaching me for medical aid without a license.”
Ryzhou was Pastnou’s representative, while he was in a psychiatric hospital. Now Ihar Pastnou does not rule out that this was the cause of intense interest to Ryzhou by law enforcement agencies. The Vitsebsk doctor disagrees with his diagnosis of "personality disorder", as he believes that it was revenge for criticism and seeks to open an independent examination and to reverse the decision of the court on compulsory treatment.