The family of a Kiwi man who died after being tied down for 10 days in a psychiatric hospital are begging the Japanese Government to ban the practice.

Yesterday, Kelly Savage's family helped launch a campaign against the increasing use of physical restraints in the country's hospitals at a press conference in Tokyo.

They said Japan's use of the practice was out of line with the rest of the world.

"It's not going to bring Kelly back, but at least his death won't be in vain," said Kelly's brother, Pat Savage.


Kelly, 27, died after being transferred to Yamato City Hospital on May 17, a week after suffering a heart attack and more than two weeks after he was hospitalised for mental health issues.

It had not been established what caused the heart attack, but doctors suspected deep vein thrombosis as a result of being restrained for up to 10 days continuously.

The Alliance Against Physical Restraint in Psychiatric Care announced its formation at a news conference outside Japan's Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare yesterday afternoon.

International media including CNN and the BBC were present, as well as Japanese media.

Kelly's mother Martha Savage spoke about her son's life, how loved he was, and how much he had been enjoying living in Japan, where he'd been teaching English for the past two years.

Kelly, 27, has been teaching english in Japan for about two years before he died. Photo/ supplied by Harada Elementary School
Kelly, 27, has been teaching english in Japan for about two years before he died. Photo/ supplied by Harada Elementary School

The alliance was being led by Kyorin University professor Toshio Hasegawa, who has spent the past decade researching the use of restraint in Japanese hospitals.

It also included psychiatric patients, lawyers and academics as well as families like the Savages who have lost loved ones.

At the conference, Hasegawa said restrained patients on average were strapped down for 96 days.

This compares with several hours to several tens of hours in many other countries, he said.

"What I would like to ask you first is to think about the feelings of those who are dying while under physical restraint."

Pat Savage, 32, who also lives in Japan, said media present seemed shocked by what Hasegawa was saying.

"I think people were mainly surprised to hear how out of line Japan was with the rest of the world."

Pat Savage said data from the ministry showed in 2014 there were more than 10,000 people being physically restrained in the country at any time.

Use of restraint had almost doubled in the past decade, he said.

The alliance's first action was to call on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki to prohibit the use of restraint lasting more than 24 hours in psychiatric care.

They also asked for an immediate investigation into possible human rights violations and for tighter rules around how and when restraint could be used.

To sign the petition or learn more about the campaign, you can click here.

Rules around restraint:

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which Japan has ratified, says use of excessive restraint is a breach of human rights, which must only be used as a last resort, and should be removed as soon as possible.

However, there are no exact guidelines about how long is too long or when restraint must be lifted.

A recent report into seclusion and restraint practices in New Zealand linked restraint to an increased risk of death and physical harm, including blood clots.