Monday, August 02, 2004

Letter sent to Rowling in response to her outcry
Dear Mrs Rowling
Thank you for your letter of June 14, 2004, in which, on the basis of one accidental, non-serious article in the British press, you objected to the use of so called net and cage beds for mentally handicapped children in the Czech Republic, and asked for a ban on their use.The problem you touched upon is, of course, important and is an object of permanent, earnest, and expert review in our country, as well as elsewhere in the world. This is not the first time that I have come across to it and it is not a new topic in our expert circles. I can assure you that I have examined the entire issue closely in the past few weeks and have consulted with the top Czech physicians and psychiatrists. The issue of using particular restrictive means, as well as the overall regime for handicapped patients in medical institutions has been intensively discussed at the political level and in the public for a long time. It has its moral and ethical aspect, but the arguments of medical experts are equally important. It is impossible to simply shift the argument to the issue of abiding or abusing human rights. It is necessary to carefully evaluate the use of restrictive means in the treatment of individual patients. It is also necessary to find appropriate methods of preventing mentally handicapped people from injuring or mutilating themselves or others. Neither the Czech expert public, nor myself, can accept your radical and extremely simplified opinion caused by an emotive, and very tendentious article. The Czech Republic is a standard democratic country and our health care is comparable with the health service of other advanced countries. I must refute the idea that the use of the aforementioned beds is abusive, or worse, that mentally handicapped children are tyranised in our country. It would be likewise possible to criticize the placement of handicapped patients in special rooms or their sedation by increased doses of medicine. All restricting methods have their benefits and drawbacks, and the attempts at fix-all solutions would only cause new problems, new complications and further discussions.I agree with you that protection of seriously handicapped patients, especially children, has to be a priority, because they cannot defend themselves. I can assure you that I and other institutions of the Czech Republic take this duty of ours very seriously. Nevertheless, the minister of health of the Czech Republic decided to ban the usage of the beds that you criticized.Thank you for your interest in these problems and for your contribution to our domestic discussion on this topic.
Yours sincerely
Václav Klaus
Prague, July 28, 2004

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