Although restraints are sometimes portrayed as a boon to patients, preventing them from hurting themselves or others or wandering away, they are more likely to harm than to help. Physical restraints are blamed for scores of choking deaths in nursing homes each year. Heavy sedation or straps so diminish the existence of vast numbers of patients that they are robbed of the freedom and vitality that can make life worth living.
In 1977, one out of every four nursing home residents in the USA was restrained, either physically or sedated, because it makes them easier to handle. In 1992, this has increased to two out of five. Restraints and sedation are virtually unknown in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.