Patients ‘refusing treatment’ over smoking ban, court told…
Patients ‘refusing treatment’ over smoking ban, court told
May 20, 2013
Psychiatric patients are refusing treatment because they cannot smoke at DHB facilities, the High Court has been told.
The Waitemata DHB is defending its ban on smoking at Auckland psychiatric centres in a case heard today.
ONE News spoke to a mother, Jenn, whose son took his own life after a lifelong battle with a personality disorder.
He was a heavy smoker and Jenn says he smoked to keep calm, but when the smoking ban in his local mental health unit came into place she believed it stopped him seeking help.
“He constantly kept telling me, he didn’t want to go in there, that he couldn’t go in there, that he needed to have a smoke,” she said.
His story was mentioned as part of the civil case which has been brought by two former psychiatric patients.
The DHB says its no smoking policy is lawful and it provides nicotine replacement therapy for patients. It says it is appropriate and proper to have a policy that prevents people from smoking when they are on DHB sites and in DHB buildings.
However, the lawyer acting for the former patient says it is denying them their personal freedom.
“The case is about the right to human dignity and in the applicants’ submission that is the source of all human rights,” Richard Francois said.
“A lot of psychiatric patients are refusing treatment, they are not going back into hospitals because they don’t like total prohibition on smoking.”
While it is not disputed that smoking is a health risk, some doctors say nicotine can reduce anxiety in psychiatric patients.
Psychiatric clinician Dr James Adams’ affidavit to the court said in his experience when patients cannot smoke against their will there is a noticeable decrease in nursing productivity, and the patients can become belligerent and verbally aggressive.
The plaintiff says psychiatric patients are the weakest and most vulnerable in our society and to force them to quit smoking is a breach of human rights.
The case is set down for two days.
At a glance
•?Smoking bans are enforced at hospitals, prisons, Government buildings and schools.
•?Patches and nicotine lozenges are made available to patients.
•?The smoking bans have already been overturned in some Australian psychiatric facilities.
•?This is the first time smoking bans at psychiatric facilities in New Zealand has been challenged in the courts.