"Matthew's Law" Rejected For Compromise On Restraints
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 17, 2003
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY--After hearing seven hours of intense testimony Thursday, the state Assembly Health and Human Services and Regulatory Oversight Committees approved a bill that would limit -- but not eliminate -- the use of physical and mechanical restraints on people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.
The measure allows restraints as part of a planned intervention, and only with approval by a parent, a doctor and a county-based human rights committee. The restraints would be limited to one hour and a physician would have to examine the person within 24 hours.
"Matthew's Law", a tougher bill that would have banned the use of restraints, was rejected by the committees after a number of parents testified that such procedures benefited their children.
That bill was named for Matthew Goodman, a 14-year-old with autism, who died last February after being restrained several days in a New Jersey institution for children with "severe behavior disorders". The state Division of Developmental Disabilities determined that Matthew was abused by a regimen of arm restraints that left him immobile most of his day and at night. The Camden County Prosecutor's Office has found no evidence that the staff intentionally harmed Matthew.
Matthew's mother, Janice Roach, testified with his father, Carl Goodman, sitting beside her.
"In our opinion Matthew faced 16 months of torture through the increasing use of restraints," Roach said.
One lawmaker tried to appease Matthew's parents by offering to call the compromise bill "Matthew's Law", because of the advocacy work done by Roach.
After the compromise bill was passed, a clearly disappointed Janice Roach said, "I'm hoping our efforts have and will continue to teach New Jersey a lesson on how restraints are not treatment, and that the lesson will continue to spread across the nation."
More hearings are to come to discuss treatment for people with mental retardation in state-run and state-licensed facilities.