Constitutional Court restricts detention of psychiatric patients from detention

Court ruling: Fixation of psychiatric patients only with judicial approval

In a recent ruling, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the longer fixation of psychiatric patients must be approved by a judge in the future. Two patients from Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg had filed constitutional complaints because they had been fixed in psychiatry against their will.

Interference with the fundamental right to freedom of the person

The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has ruled that psychiatric patient fixations must be approved by the judge in the future. "The fixation of patients represents an interference with their fundamental right to freedom of the person," says a press release. The reason for the judgment were the complaints of two men who had been tied to the bed for several hours in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg on medical orders.

A not only short-term fixation is deprivation of liberty

"The fundamental right of freedom and the principle of proportionality impose strict requirements for the justification of such an interference," the court explains in the communication.

"The legal basis for authorization must be adequately determined and meet the material and procedural requirements," it continues.

According to the information, a not only short-term fixation is a deprivation of liberty, for which Article 104.2 of the Basic Law provides for the further procedural reservation of a judicial decision.

"As a rule, a short-term measure can be assumed if it foreseeably falls short of about half an hour," says the judgment of July 24.

Daily on-call judicial service

In concrete terms, this means that a doctor's order is not sufficient if a fixation lasts half an hour or more. Then the measure must be approved by the judge.

A competent judge must be available at least during the day to order fixations.

The ruling states: "To ensure the protection of those affected by a deprivation of liberty, a daily judicial on-call service is required, which covers the period from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m."

If a fixation is carried out at night, a judicial decision must be obtained the next morning.

Bring constitutional condition in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg

With the judgment, the Second Senate of the Federal Constitutional Court declared the relevant provision of the State of Baden-Württemberg to be unconstitutional and determined that the Baden-Württemberg and Bavarian legislators - who have not yet issued a specific legal basis for fixations - are obliged to June 2019 to bring about a constitutional state.

Tied up in bed for hours

The judgment had been handed down by two men from southern Germany due to constitutional complaints.

One of them concerned “the eight-hour fixation of the complainant, which was carried out by a doctor and lasted for eight hours - that is, being tied to a sickbed on both arms, both legs and around the stomach, chest and forehead - during a total of a good twelve hours of psychiatric stay” , it says in the message.

There it explains that the Bavarian Accommodation Act, which was the legal basis for the applicant's provisional placement, does not provide any special authorization basis for ordering fixations.

The second constitutional complaint concerned “the 5-point fixation - that is, the tying of all extremities and around the abdomen to a hospital bed - of a patient who was placed in a closed psychiatric facility, which had been repeatedly ordered by a doctor over several days.”

The current ruling now reads: "Both a 5-point and a 7-point fixation of not only short-term duration are deprivation of liberty within the meaning of Article 2 GG, which is not covered by a judicial placement order is. "(ad)

Author and source information

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