What happens when a state sanctions the forcible removal of an individual from their family?
Can we trust the state to get this right?
For Karina Hansen in Denmark, it would seem much has gone wrong.
Image by Wendy Boutilier
Of course, we can all understand when a vulnerable person needs to be removed from an abusive situation, but we tend to make the mistake of believing that the state gets this judgement right.
So, when an different story hits the headlines, we assume that only one side of the story is being told. After all, we say, there must be more hidden behind confidentiality clauses.
With this sort of complacency, how can state sanctioned abuses be highlighted and put right?
In Karina's case, she became severely ill with ME. Her parents, naturally, helped her by protecting her from the outside world of over-stimulation and stress. Families world-over do this when one of their own gets ill. The difference is that most people recover in a few weeks.
Karina did not recover. Severe ME is like that!
So the state got involved, and Karina was removed from her family on Feb 12th 2013. She has been undergoing treatment against her wishes at Hammel Neurocenter in Denmark ever since.
It seems a psychiatric diagnosis over rules all other medical diagnoses, and despite the fact Karina is no danger to others, nor to herself, she can be forced to undergo treatment that neither she, nor her family, want for her.
Her parents have been allowed no contact with her.
Reports about her condition are sketchy and there are genuine fears that she has deteriorated significantly.
The psychiatrist in charge of Karina's care, Per Fink, says that she has a Functional Disorder, which means that they believe her condition is psychosomatic. He does not believe that ME is a real physical illness.
Instead he has placed her on a regime of anti-depressants, Graded Exercise Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. The centre says she is not being held against her will, but of course she is too weak to walk out, and it seems no-one is allowed to help her leave!!
Second opinions have been sought only from other sympathetic psychiatrists, and offers of help from leading ME specialists have been rejected.
Legal avenues to secure her release have so far led to nothing, and Karina's parents have exhausted their funds.
So what happens now?
Is Karina to be left, unable to have contact with her family, unable to reject this treatment and in constant suffering amongst people who neither love her, nor take her illness seriously??
A petition has been running for some time to collect support for her release.
It can be signed here:
Dr Stig Gerdes, a Danish doctor, has taken an interest in Karina's case, and has started to challenge the psychiatric treatment of Karina.
A fund has been set up to help with the legal battle that is likely to ensue, and contributions can be sent to Dr Gerdes via Paypal at: email@example.com
Tragically her case is not isolated.
Psychiatrists, it seems, are fond of imposing their treatments on vulnerable individuals. The recent case of Justina Pelletier in Boston, USA has many similarities to Karina's case. Happily a massive campaign has led to Justina's release and I can only hope that the psychiatrists involved her case are thoroughly investigated.
So now Karina needs to have HER story told. This needs to be talked about widely, and questions need to be asked in high places. To date there has been some media coverage and several blog posts. I have linked a small selection below.
However MUCH more needs to happen to fight this case, because this is not JUST about Karina.
This is now about the whole business of enforced psychiatric care - against patients' and their families' wishes, and against the advice of other medical professionals.
Please talk about Karina's situation widely. Share this post, or others from the links below, and if you can make a contribution, no matter how small, towards the legal fees of Dr Stig Gerdes then perhaps consider doing so.
The amount needed is estimated to be 100,000 Danish Kroner, that is £10,606 [or $18,145]
On the 11th July the fund stood at £3045 [$5,209].
Nothing will change if we do nothing.
Something Rotten in the State of Denmark (May 2013)
Karina Hansen is taken from her home (May 2013)
Press Release from ME Association in Denmark (March 2014)
Parliament Hearing for Confined Danish ME Patient Karina Hansen (March 2014)
Charity Invest in ME - Letter offering ME expertise
Justice for Karina Hansen Facebook Page
Facebook Page: Finkbusters The Long Walk to Free Karina
The Coalition for Diagnostic Rights' letter to the Danish Minister of Health
And a little after-word. I wrote this poem last year as I thought about my own situation in comparison to Karina's. The photo behind the words is a 5am sunrise over the West of Ireland.
Click on image to view larger version
Please help however you can.
PS I am not directly involved with this fund, but have contributed to it and believe the case important enough that I want to share it widely. Perhaps you will feel this way too.