Pedro gabriel Godinho delgado
This profile was prepared when Pedro gabriel Godinho delgado was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
A longtime advocate of mental patients' human rights, Pedro has been the driving force behind a new law, expected to win approval this year, that will better regulate the country's mental health system to put a stop to current widespread abuses. A key provision of the law requires that a government public defender be notified within twenty-four hours of a person's involuntary commitment to a mental institution. The public defender must interview doctors, family members, and other people to determine whether the person's commitment is warranted. The law also prohibits the creation of additional mental hospitals in favor of creating a network of mental health care alternatives, including short-term hospital stays (seventy-two hours), daytime treatment, and supervised group living arrangements. "This law represents more than simple progress," says Pedro. "It means radical change for the better."Drawing upon this success, Pedro and other professionals have created a group called SOS-Human Rights for the Psychiatric Patient to provide twenty-four-hour-a-day protection for mental patients. A full-time secretary will receive complaints about medical negligence, physical and sexual abuse, and unwarranted incarceration of patients. The secretary will then contact an on-call SOS psychiatrist who will investigate the complaints and pressure authorities to intervene when necessary. The group will announce serious cases to the press. It will also carry out an information campaign, aimed at the general public and health care professionals, to eliminate stereotypes about mental patients and to publicize alternatives to traditional institutional care. SOS also plans to maintain close contact with politicians, lawyers, jurists, and human rights organizations to ensure rapid investigation of any suspected abuses.