Mental Patient’s Education Win Thwarted

Media release: August 3, 2012

“Mental health patient Saeed Dezfouli who won a court challenge to study law whilst being held in the Forensic Hospital, has been refused the tools necessary to do the course. His lawyer has advised him to return to court to assert his right in practice. This situation provides an insight into how the NSW Health Department views patients’ rights and its duty of care” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

“The University of Southern Queensland supplied a CD with his course notes, but the Forensic Hospital says that it is ‘policy’ for patients to only access computers for two hours a week. Otherwise patients have to use pen and paper. The computer donated from the University of NSW Law School is waiting here for him now” said Mr Collins.

“I couldn’t imagine doing my course under those conditions” said JA worker and law student Dara Ogunsiji.

According article 26 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘Everyone has the right to education’. This however doesn’t appear to be the case for mental health patients.

“A settlement on Saeed’s right to education was reached earlier this year just before a four day hearing to be defended by Senior Counsel for the Health Department. Now they refuse to show us the settlement, insisting that Saeed, whilst being forcibly medicated, has to negotiate without support from his Primary Carer. We call for the spirit of the decision to be respected, and for the person-centred approach to be adopted by this Department with a yearly budget of $17.3 billion and lack of compassion for their patients” said Mr Collins.

After the earlier win Saeed said:  “Finally I have the opportunity to use my time constructively. I feel transformed – like a student, not a person of lower status than a prisoner”. Yesterday he said: “If I was a prisoner I would be working on my course now”.

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