Total legal chaos at Hungarian psychiatrics

Gabi is about to get a divorce. After a heated argument, her partner calls an ambulance. He tells the paramedics that Gabi is threatening to commit suicide and he is worried about her. They see that Gabi is very tense, nervous and her whole body is trembling. The more she denies it, the more suspicious she becomes to the emergency personnal.

Just to be on the safe side, she’s taken to a psychiatric hospital. Her stay is documented and this documentation could be used against her in the upcoming custody trial.

As soon as Gabi arrives at the psychiatric hospital, she is put on strong medications. No one explains to her clearly what would happen to her, but there is a sort of a check-up. She is not allowed to read the documentation. She does not understand what is happening to her.

Her phone is confiscated, she cannot contact her patients’ rights representative. She cannot see an attorney. The hospital informs the court of justice and requests a viewing from them. However, there is only a BNO code in their request, and lawyers, not having a background in psychiatry, have difficulty interpreting it.

Three days after admission, it is time for Gabi’s court viewing. This is basically a mini-trial that takes place in the hospital and the aim of which is for the court to decide whether compulsory treatment for Gabi is justified.

The viewing takes place in Gabi’s hospital room, in the presence of other patients and their relatives. Gabi meets her assigned legal representative (a public lawyer appointed by the state) at the viewing, as who has not contacted her beforehand. Troublingly, Gabi has been administered strong tranquilisers, which make her dizzy, her words are slurred when she tries to answer any questions.

The decision on involuntary treatment arrives 10-12 days later. Moreover, the justice department mails it to the state-appointed attorney whose contact information is not available to Gabi. The second copy goes to her home address, where it is picked up by her partner - and we’re back where we started. It is unclear when and where Gabi is to receive notice of the determination. The Kafkaesque absurdity and total procedural chaos are the main characteristics of emergency and involuntary psychiatric treatment in Hungary. Further, it is a severe rights’ violation to involuntarily treat someone with highly intoxicating drugs prior to a full psychiatric evaluation. That is, an individual is temporarily deprived of their personal freedom and these experiences from the psychiatric ward can be erased from neither the memory nor the personal record.

The EU Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has called upon Hungary multiple times to abandon involuntary forms of treatment.

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