The Korea Herald


Hospital mandating recovering alcoholic to clean facility is a rights violation: court

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Feb. 27, 2023 - 14:29

    • Link copied

The Seoul Administrative Court in southern Seoul (Yonhap) The Seoul Administrative Court in southern Seoul (Yonhap)

A Seoul court on Monday ruled against a local hospital which mandated a recovering alcoholic to clean its facility as part of its rehabilitation program.

The Seoul Administrative Court said the hospital’s policy was tantamount to a violation of patients’ rights in terms of human dignity and access to care.

Court documents showed that the hospital in question mandated its in-patients to engaging in manual labor including cleaning, laundry and meal distribution, as part of its recovery program. The hospital paid the patients 1.7 times more than the Korean minimum wage.

Despite the compensation, one of the patients -- whose name was withheld -- took issue with the involuntary nature of the work sessions and asked the National Human Rights Commission of Korea to intervene.

After a review, the state-run rights watchdog sided with the patient and judged that the hospital should halt its policy of forcing manual labor on its in-patients.

In December last year, the hospital took the matter to court, seeking to challenge the NHRCK’s ruling.

The NHRCK’s decision came in August 2020, three months after the patient filed a complaint with the agency that the hospital forced its in-patients to receive invasive injection treatments, be put into isolation and clean the facility, as well as limiting the use of their cellphones.

After assessing the complaint, the NHRCK ordered the hospital to halt its paid manual labor program and allow access to their cellphones. But it dismissed the patient’s requests regarding injection treatments and isolation.

In line with the NHRCK’s assessment, the court said that the hospital breached the law by failing to document the details and the progress of the manual labor in its medical records. It added that the hospital seems to have included manual labor in the treatment program not for the benefit of the patients, but for its own interest.

The hospital has appealed to a higher court.