Abuse alleged at mental hospital

11 workers at Eitanim psychiatric hospital to be charged with patient abuse.

The Jerusalem District Attorney's Office has prepared a blood-chilling indictment against 11 staff members of Eitanim Hospital, including the former hospital director, deputy director, chief nurse, chief social worker and seven others, for alleged acts of sadism and brutality conducted against hospital patients suffering from autism and mental retardation. The indictment will be filed conditional on the outcome of a hearing before Jerusalem District Attorney Eli Abarbanel, which will be granted the suspects. If Abarbanel is not convinced by their arguments, the indictment will be filed. The district attorney's office has presented copies of the charge sheet to the suspects. All 11 suspects are no longer in the positions they held during the period covered by the indictment. Some are no longer working at the hospital. According to the indictment, former hospital director Ya'acov Margolin, deputy director Moshe Abramowitz, chief nurse Na'ama Dukshitzki and chief social worker Mariel Goldberg were accused of responsibility for all of the allegedly illegal actions committed by their underlings in the indictment, even though they did not perpetrate any of them themselves. The charges against them include abuse of a minor or helpless person and failure to report such an offense, both of which are violations of the Penal Code. According to the law, "if a person commits an act of physical, mental or sexual abuse on a minor or helpless person, he is liable to seven-year imprisonment. If the abuser is the person responsible for the minor or helpless person, he is liable to nine years imprisonment." The other charges in the indictment include descriptions of the treatment meted out to 12 of the 20 patients in the ward, those held responsible for the treatment and the specific charges against them. According to the indictment, ward nurse Dana Ben-Meir was responsible for the policy of punishments and harsh treatment meted out to the patients. "[Ben-Meir] determined the policy for treating the patients including behavioral, educational and sometimes even medical treatment," according to the indictment. "All of the ward staff members received orders from her alone and the orders sometimes even appeared on the bulletin board in the ward…Ben-Meir decided that certain behavior among the patients should be changed by force because, she claimed, the behavior was voluntary and under their control…as a result, she introduced unacceptable 'treatment methods' which constituted abuse and prevented them from receiving medicines they needed for their special condition." The patient "Y", for example, who is 40 years old, suffers from mental retardation. According to the indictment, the ward staff would force him to eat all his food. If he did not, they would talk to him like a baby, give away the food he liked to others, force him to eat under the table, and, if he vomited, force him to eat his vomit. Y had a tendency to move back and forth. The staff would place a glass of water on his back, so that when he moved, the water would spill on him. Another patient, "YSR", 35, suffers from autism and epilepsy. In 1995, he developed a neurological illness that made it difficult from him to walk. According to the indictment, Ben-Meir decided that the patient was only pretending to have trouble walking and that he fell down on purpose. She was quoted as saying, "He can fall 50 times, but he'll learn to walk." YSR often bumped into walls and hurt himself and was even taken from time to time to the emergency room. But Ben-Meir insisted that he keep on walking. On one occasion, when the patient lay down on the floor, several members of the ward staff beat him all over his body, and kicked and cursed him. These actions took place between 2001, when Ben-Meir was appointed ward nurse, and 2004. According to the charge sheet, Margolin and Abramowitz knew about what was happening in the ward from the beginning of 2003 but did nothing to stop it and did not report it to the police.