Thursday, July 15, 2004

'Potter' author sways Czech decision

Reacting to criticism from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and human rights groups, the Czech government ordered the removal of caged beds from psychiatric facilities.

"The minister ordered that all caged beds be removed immediately, and beds with nets by the end of the year," Aneta Kupkova, a Health Ministry spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

The move came a day after President Vaclav Klaus received a letter from Rowling protesting the practice in the Czech Republic.

Critics have said the beds, fitted with cages or nets to contain difficult patients, are barbaric.

Amnesty International and the Council of Europe have protested repeatedly against their use, and Rowling's letter was the final straw prompting Health Care Minister Josef Kubinyi to act, Kupkova said.

Of a total of 9,657 beds in Czech psychiatric facilities, about 100 have nets and only 20 have bars, she said.

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