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Health Care Scandal: German Dementia Patients 'Kept Quiet' With The Wrong Drugs

To save time, money and staff, many German health facilities treat dementia patients with powerful drugs that serve no other purpose but to keep them quiet. By some estimates, the practice affects some 240,000 people in Germany.

In a Canadian nursing home. Similar facilities in Germany are facing grave accusations. (Vince Alongi)
In a Canadian nursing home. Similar facilities in Germany are facing grave accusations. (Vince Alongi)


BERLIN-- A growing number of German dementia sufferers are being treated with antipsychotic drugs that calm them down but do nothing to treat their illness. Critics have used the provocative term "chemical rape" to denounce the practice.

According to Professor Gerd Glaeske of the University of Bremen's Center for Social Policies, handing out this type of medication without the permission of the patient or a relative of the patient is comparable to arbitrarily tying mental patients to a bed or chair.

Glaeske told Die Welt that many out-patients or residents of care facilities – possibly as many as 240,000 – are given drugs just to keep them quiet. "In these cases, the drugs ... save on personnel costs and give the homes greater profit margins," he said.

Glaeske cites British studies which suggest that in two out of three cases, strong neuroleptic drugs are being prescribed when they shouldn't be -- and wouldn't be necessary at all if the patient was receiving the proper care for his or her condition.

A German social rights association called VdK recommends increasing the amount invested in care to stop this "mass phenomenon." "Dementia patients are very care-intensive because they have a very strong need to move around, and often try to run away," said Ulrike Mascher, the association's president.

In the next few years, many care homes in Germany are going to have to expand to deal with the country's rising numbers of dementia patients. Pilot projects have shown that it is easier to care for patients in small groups of five as opposed to groups of 20, which is the approach taken in many facilities.

Germany's Ministry of Health stated that while the medication prescribed to dementia patients is the responsibility of their doctors, new reforms planned by Health Minister Daniel Bahr are aimed to improve cooperation between doctors and care homes.

Members of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) have criticized the government, saying it bears a great deal of responsibility for this scandal. SPD critics say far too little has been done guarantee financing for proper care of dementia patients.

Read the full story in German by Anette Dowideit

Photo - Vince Alongi

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

Editor's note: An earlier version of the article featured a headline we have since determined to be unnecessarily provocative.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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