Published on January 6, 2023
At the Night of Dignity, we remembered not only Dorota Šandorová, but also the situation of other people with disabilities
Dorota Šandorova experienced many years of abuse by caregivers in a social services facility. Two years ago, one of them killed her on the night of 6-7 January. He straddled her, brutally twisted her arms behind her back and pushed her full force against her chest until she fell unconscious and suffocated. The court convicted the perpetrator of murder, then reclassified it as negligent homicide. The incident did not become public until last November and did not appear in professional case reports. Today, we at the Office of the Public Defender of Rights, along with people in other places across the Czech Republic, remembered Dorota Šandorová.
"I believe that we can learn from the tragic fate of Dorota Šandorová and that the institutions responsible for accessible, quality and safe services will begin to take steps to ensure that people with disabilities can live in the community with adequate support. It is too late for Dorota Šandorová. But there are many people with disabilities living behind the walls of institutions, and we still have the opportunity to change their story," said Ombudsman Stanislav Křeček.
The ombudsman has repeatedly warned that the mistreatment of people with disabilities in social service institutions has systemic causes. Care for people with disabilities in the Czech Republic is still concentrated mainly in large institutions. There are not enough community-based social services to enable people with disabilities to lead independent lives as required by Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is the Ombudsman who oversees the Czech Republic's compliance with its obligations under the Convention.
As part of the prevention of ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty and monitoring of the rights of people with disabilities, the Ombudsman visits the facilities where people with disabilities live. Between 2021 and 2022, staff from the Ombudsman's Office visited a total of 8 homes for people with disabilities. They also monitored the conditions in which people with disabilities live during another aproximately fifty visits to, for example, psychiatric hospitals, educational establishments or homes for the elderly and homes with special regime.
The program of the Night of Dignity in Brno also included a panel discussion entitled "A life of dignity for all". Along with the Deputy Ombudsman Vít Alexander Schorm discussed in the panel for example Hana Grygarová, a member of the Ombudsman's advisory body for the rights of people with disabilities, or Václav Hromada, who has personal experience of being in a psychiatric hospital and now works as a peer consultant helping other people in a similar situation.
"If society or the state is addressing something that concerns people with disabilities, it is people with disabilities who should be involved in such discussions in the first place," Deputy Ombudsman Vít Alexander Schorm said in his introduction, mentioning other areas in which the state owes a debt to people with disabilities, such as barriers to transportation, public buildings and services, and insufficient support for employment.
He also recalled that already in 2009, the Ombudsman Otakar Motejl informed the Chamber of Deputies about the long-term use of restraints in psychiatric hospitals for some patients with mental disabilities. These were patients who were in the hospital not so much because of the treatment as because no social services facility was able to respond to their behaviour. Already at that time, the Ombudsman called on the responsible ministries to start dealing with people with care-intensive behaviour and to ensure that they lived in dignified conditions and that their rights were not violated.
Unfortunately, current findings from visits to psychiatric hospitals show that even today, people with behaviour that is demanding of care are still being admitted for long periods of time and are subject to restrictive measures. The reason remains the same - there is no suitable social service available for them. Fourteen years on from the first ombudsman's appeal, we therefore have no choice but to turn to the ministries again.