Caging man is ‘unpardonable’, MMA chief says

PETALING JAYA, Sept 26 — Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Datuk Dr N.K.S Tharmaseelan is “embarrassed, distressed and pained” over the caging of a mentally-disabled person in Kuala Pilah.

Commenting on a statement by Senaling Welfare Department head Mohd Nazrizam Sulong that “caging a mentally-disabled person is all right,” Dr Tharmaseelan expressed shock that this could occur in Malaysia that has a “caring society and an excellent healthcare system”.

Mohd Nazrizam was referring to the case of Abdul Rahman, who has lived in a cage in Kampung Rembang Panas, Kuala Pilah, for 17 years.

“The Welfare Department head has shown total ignorance in making that statement,” said Dr Tharmaseelan.

“I am extremely distressed as it is virtually abandoning the patient and, worse, justifying an abhorrent practice.”

Dr Tharmaseelan felt the least Mohd Nazriram could have done was to make arrangements for Abdul Rahman to see a psychiatrist.

“The patient has become more aggressive due to long periods of neglect and lack of medical supervision,” he said.

“Mohd Nazrizam failed in his duty to take appropriate measures. He is not qualified to assess a patient’s degree and type of mental illness.”

Dr Tharmaseelan questioned the family’s act of caging the 51-year-old, who was not at fault for being mentally ill.

“I hope other families do not follow this repugnant practice. To condone such abasing of an individual is really unpardonable,” he said.

He said mental health services in Malaysia were advanced and comparable to those in developed countries, and  a psychiatric department was available in almost every major hospital.

Basic services, ranging from acute home care to assertive home care, were readily available to the mentally-ill, and Dr Tharmaseelan found it hard to believe claims by Abdul Rahman’s family that the hospital was of no help.

He called for a proper investigation as it was not fair to accuse hospitals.

“The responsibility is on everyone, including the community. Some people shy away from revealing that someone in their family is afflicted by mental illness,” Dr Tharmaseelan said.

“The use of physical restraint is not encouraged. It will only make the situation worse.

“Mental illness can be controlled with proper medication, psychotherapy, rehabilitation and support.”