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Facility for mentally disabled locks woman up for 20 years due to eating disorder

SHIKANO, Tottori -- A facility for the mentally disabled here has come under fire for locking up a resident for 10 hours a day over a period of 20 years because she had an eating disorder.

    The Tottori prefectural facility, Shikano Kachimi-en, also confined two other residents for many hours a day for between three and seven years, it has been learned.

    The Tottori Prefectural Government has branded the facility's action abuse, and will ask it to file a report explaining the background to its treatment. The abuse was made public by the Tottori social welfare corporation that operates the facility and the prefectural government, which conducted an investigation.

    According to their announcement and other information, a woman in her 60s was locked up in a room for 10 hours a day over a period of 20 years, except when she was eating and training, on the grounds that she had pica -- a disorder that prompted her to eat foreign objects belonging to other residents.

    Another woman in her 40s was locked away for 14 hours a day for about seven years as she was held to be violent toward others. The violence had apparently subsided in recent years, but staff continued to keep her locked up. One other woman in her 40s was locked up for 6 1/2 hours a day for around three years for similar behavior.

    The facility explained that it obtained consent from the family members of the three residents to lock them up when they entered the facility and every three months thereafter.

    The Tottori prefectural Tobu Health and Welfare Office was alerted to the facility's treatment of the residents on May 10, and it conducted an investigation with the Tottori Municipal Government under the Act on the Prevention of Disabled Abuse.

    Mitsunori Yamamoto, director of the corporation that operates Shikano Kachimi-en, apologized over the confinement of the residents.

    "We apologize for causing great trouble and concern to users and their guardians," Yamamoto said, adding that workers would be trained to prevent a recurrence.

    Shikano Kachimi-en opened in 1966, and now has about 70 mentally disabled users. Its operator also runs the Shikano Daini Kachimi-en facility nearby.

    Fumiya Tachibana, head of the Japanese Association on Intellectual Disability, commented, "Even if the family's consent is obtained, such treatment can't be justified, and a disabled person's individual human rights must be protected. When difficult problems arise in the support of disabled people, facilities shouldn't keep the problems to themselves, but collaborate with other organizations to solve them."

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