Norwegian Woman Forced to Endure Painful and Dangerous Withdrawal while Pregnant

December 06, 2011

21-year-old was arrested and sent to forced treatment. Jan Egeland, the Human Rights Watch calls on three cabinet ministers to ensure that she regains freedom.

Nearly two weeks ago a woman went for a check up on Stord. Outside waited six uniformed police officers.
- "They took me in his arms, pulled me into the car and drove me to Stavanger. I felt absolutely awful and feel I was duped, says Malene to NRK

The reason is that 21-year-old drug addict follows a treatment in Belgium. The journey ended at Rogaland A-Center in Stavanger, where she is admitted for treatment against her will.
But the patient is not a regular drug user. She receives a substitution treatment fro a Belgian doctor. The problem is that the Norwegian authorities do not recognize this medical treatment. In Norway, similar treatment is given , but within the MAR system (medication-assisted rehabilitation).

Many Norwegian drug addicts try to go abroad to get drug treatment because of long waiting time in Norway. Had Malene been under treatment by a Norwegian doctor she would have escaped forced treatment. Now she is forced to stop treatment. The rapid de-escalation of subutex has given her hard withdrawal.
- "I'm freezing and sweating all the time and feel miserable", she says.

Professor Karl Harald Søvig, an expert on coercion in psychiatry and substance abuse, is highly skeptical of forced treatment of Stord woman.
- "She has drugs prescribed by a doctor, it is a legitimate and not an abuse of the legal sense", he says.
- "Then there is no basis for enforcement?"
- "No."

Jan Egeland, the Human Rights Watch have written letters to ministers Audun Lysbakken, Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen and Grete Faremo, where he expresses deep concern over the government's handling of Malenes situation and requires that 21-year-old's release.

- "We believe this may be in violation of human rights. People in this situation needs treatment, not coercion. It is not right to deprive her freedom now, we believe", says Egeland to NRK
- "It seems that she is punished because she did not receive treatment in Norway. She is now subjected to coercion in Norway, with disruption of an international treatment that is not recognized in Norway, for reasons unknown, says Egeland."

The woman is pregnant for the tenth week. Her only chance to escape from forced treatment, if to take abortion. Although she wants to give birth to the child. Nevertheless, she is considering strongly the second option.
- "It is my only recourse. I will not be able to be here much longer", she says to NRK.no.
Egeland is deeply distressed over the situation.
- "It's a cruel fact that a law that would protect the unborn life now may lead to abortion because of the use of coercion, he said."

The woman have complained about forced treatment before the County Board, which will consider the appeal her upcoming Wednesday. Regional Tribunal's chairperson Thorstein Roed will not comment on this matter, but says in general:
- "Coercion should last throughout the pregnancy. But it is also true that social services in consultation with the institution shall consider whether there are grounds for continuing the use of force", said Roed.