Ombudsman Denounces Abuses in French Nursing Homes


In a report published on 4 May, France’s Defender of Rights, has denounced a large number of violations of the fundamental rights to respect and dignity of the residents in nursing home establishments for aged and dependent individuals, known in France as “EHPADs”. The report reveals how the situation has been further exacerbated by the health crisis.

The Defender of Rights is an independent authority appointed to ensure that human rights and liberties are respected in accordance with the Constitution. The position is currently held by Claire Hédon. In her report entitled “The Fundamental Rights of the Elderly in EHPADs,”  a large number of complaints from residents have been brought to light. “Over the past six years, the Defender of Rights Advocate has registered over 900 complaints from people objecting to the terms of their medical and social care or that of their loved ones. Eighty percent of these cases originate from an EHPAD.”

Among the many violations mentioned, the Defender of Rights reports those concerning the residents’ liberty to come and go, practicing physical or drug-induced restraint (sedation), in addition to repeated abuses involving residents’ privacy and dignity, imposing limits on visits, as well as the loss and theft of personal objects.

For the Defender, this situation shows that the abuse is mainly caused by “organizational short-comings due to staff shortages, large turnovers, burnout or lack of supervision. »

An ominous sign for concern is that violations of residents’ rights and liberties have increased since the beginning of the health crisis. The Defender describes that “arbitrary rules” (protocols, recommendations, plans, etc.) which fall outside the boundaries of judicial oversight are more and more frequently put into place. This includes restrictions on residents’ freedom to come and go, and to receive visitors. These restrictions have gone beyond official lockdown times and curfew hours and have been implemented even when the people concerned had been vaccinated.

The report also underlines the psychological impact on residents: “Many of the testimonies and complaints relate to individuals who have lost their joy of life, who suffer from depression, and who feel trapped or who no longer want to continue living.” In addition, the report also reveals how the health crisis has affected continuity in healthcare and end-of-life care.

In a press statement, the Defender insists that “the rights and freedoms of the residents cannot be arbitrarily adjusted, when the EHPADs are confronted to a lack of resources and personnel.”

In the wake of this alarming situation, the report has issued 64 recommendations to improve the healthcare for EPHAD residents and guarantee that their rights are respected.

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