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(Sydney) – Australia’s health and aged care ministers should immediately revise an aged care regulation to prohibit chemical restraint, Human Rights Watch and Aged & Disability Advocacy Australia said today in a letter to the two ministers. Chemical restraint involves giving older people with dementia drugs to control their behavior.

“The Australian government has recently received three major reports on the horrific effects of chemical restraint in aged care,” said Bethany Brown, researcher on older people’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “The ministers for health and aged care should take immediate and decisive action by banning chemical restraint and requiring real support for older people with dementia.”  

In the November 20, 2019 letter to Health Minister Greg Hunt and Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck, the organizations reiterated their serious concerns about the aged care regulation that permits the use of chemical restraint. Human Rights Watch detailed these concerns its October report “Fading Away.” The ministers have two weeks to revise the regulation before an anticipated Senate vote on whether to disallow the regulation. 

On November 13, Australia’s parliamentary human rights committee reported that the regulation on restraints in aged care could violate Australia’s commitments under international law to prohibit torture and ill-treatment and to guarantee the rights to health and non-discrimination. This statement followed the October 31 Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s three-volume interim report, which called on the government to address chemical restraint as an urgent priority.

“The writing is on the wall with these three highly critical reports,” said Geoff Rowe, chief executive officer of Aged & Disability Advocacy Australia. “The government needs to revise its regulation now to extinguish this practice and protect the human rights of older people in aged care.”

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