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Why is Jacob Blake handcuffed to his hospital bed? What is Forensic Restraint?

After a family visit, it emerged that Jacob Blake, who is in hospital and partially paralysed after being shot, has been handcuffed to his bed.

Why is Jacob Blake handcuffed to his hospital bed? What is Forensic Restraint?
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI AFP

It emerged on Thursday that Jacob Blake, who is recovering in hospital after being shot seven times in the back by police, has been handcuffed to his bed. The revelation was made by the victim’s uncle Justin Blake following a family visit to the Froedtert hospital in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin on Thursday.

Blake's uncle told CNN on Thursday that he had accompanied Blake's father to the hospital's trauma unit and explained that Jacob Blake Senior was "heartbroken" on seeing that his son had his hands tied to prevent his from leaving his bed even though he is believed to have been partially paralysed in the shooting.

"It’s adding insult to injury; he is paralysed and can't walk and they have him cuffed to the bed. Why?" Justin Blake asked.

Blake has been in hospital since he was shot numerous times in the back by police officer Rusten Sheskey while he was being detained in Kenosha, Wisconsin earlier this week. It is also believed he has had at least one operation on his spine. 

Jacob Blake placed in Forensic Restraint

So why is Blake, who is partially paralysed, in what is termed Forensic Restraint (also sometimes called Police Physical Hold)? Forensic Restraint is when “a patient is to be kept in mechanical restraints provided by the supervising law enforcement agency at all times, except when medical treatment requires their removal. Mechanical restraints is defined as those restraints used by law enforcement personnel including, but not limited to handcuffs and ankle cuffs”. Physical restraints are applied based on assessment by an R.N./Licensed Independent Practitioner to manage violent/aggressive behaviour and such restraints are generally revised every 24 hours. They are applied to ensure physical safety of patients, visitors, and/or staff in emergency situations where there is an imminent risk of harm.

However, on occasion, a Forensic Restraint may also be applied for Postural Support. A voluntary mechanical support is used to achieve proper body position, balance or alignment that would not be possible without the use of such a mechanical support (i.e. after surgical procedures, radiology exams, etc). This could be the reason why Blake, who has undergone surgery on his back, has been restrained - to keep his body rigid.

Usually, Forensic Restraint is a temporary measure – after three separate 24-hour episodes of a restrained, the patient’s condition will be reassessed.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers told a news conference that he could not imagine why Blake was handcuffed to his hospital bed. "I would have no personal understanding why that would be necessary. I would hope that we would be able to find a more, a better way to help him ... in recovering. That seems counter-intuitive. It seems to be bad medicine."