The family of a New Zealand man who died after being tied to a bed for 10 days in a Japanese hospital is calling on Japan to review its practices of restraining psychiatric patients.
His mother, Martha Savage, a professor of geophysics at Wellington's Victoria University, and brother Patrick have held a news conference in Tokyo.
Along with a Japanese campaign group whose members include lawyers and academics, the family are calling for a change in the practice of putting patients under prolonged restraint.
Kelly Savage, who was 27, had been teaching English in Japan for two years when a pre-existing mental health condition worsened.
He was admitted to Yamato Hospital near Tokyo, under a compulsory order.
Patrick Savage, who was with Kelly when he was hospitalised, said his brother was strapped to the bed by the legs, wrists and waist although he had calmed down. He was under restraint for most of the time until a nurse found him in a state of cardiac arrest 10 days later.
"How can the country that's hosting the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics claim to represent equality for all humans when it's violating UN policies regarding the human rights of mentally ill patients on a massive scale," said Patrick Savage.
"The world needs to know what's happening and Japan needs to act immediately to stop it."
Mr Savage said it had been been very difficult and frustrating getting answers from authorities on exactly what happened to his brother.
He said the post mortem result was inconclusive, but that a doctor at the second hospital had said there was a possibility that the extended physical restraint led to cardiac arrest.
An official at the first medical institution, Yamato Hospital, declined to comment on the case.
"We thought the restraint was inhumane and unnecessary in Kelly's case, but we had no idea it could cause Kelly's cardiac arrest," Mr Savage told the news conference.
He said he was not considering taking legal action against the hospital, but the campaigners nonetheless urged a change in practice.
"The fact that they put restraints [on him] was mistreatment in my mind but I don't think they did anything else ... his nurses and doctors seemed to be trying to do the right thing, nobody was being evil," said Martha Savage.
She said Japan does not have patient advocacy groups like New Zealand does to highlight issues, and she does not want her son's death to be in vain.
"I hope that we can be a catalyst to help the Japanese people create their own groups and rise up against mistreatment."
The number of hospitalised psychiatric patients that are put under physical restraint in Japan totalled 10,682 as of June 30, 2014, the latest date for which data is available, a twofold rise from a decade ago, according to the Health Ministry.
During the same period, the number of overall hospitalised psychiatric patients fell 11 per cent to 290,406.
Among those who are put under restraint, the duration of restraint averaged 96 days, Toshio Hasegawa, professor at Kyorin University told the same news conference.
This compares with several hours to several tens of hours in many other countries, said Hasegawa, who on Wednesday launched the group of psychiatric patients as well as professors and lawyers to raise awareness of such restraint and reduce the practice.
"What I would like to ask you first is to think about the feelings of those who are dying while under physical restraint," Mr Hasegawa said.
Patrick Savage said the family was horrified when they realised how widespread the practice of restraint was in Japan
"The scary thing is, it's not like it was a bad hospital, it's just the way things are. I'm sure this happens to a lot more people."
- RNZ / Reuters