Lithuania's Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė has suggested introducing compulsory treatment for people suffering from alcoholism, a measure that was in place under the Soviet rule and might clash with human rights. The proposal is a reaction to a quadruple homicide by a heavily intoxicated man this week which threw spotlight on the country's chronic problem with heavy alcohol consumption.
Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

"We must take into account what's best for the person himself and people around him, the family, the community. I think we must start serious discussions on compulsory treatment, in which case we could consider full public coverage of the medication," Šalaševičiūtė said on the LRT radio on Friday morning.

She added that she would put forward the proposal on treating people for alcoholism without their consent before parliament. She also insisted that it would not represent violation of the person's rights. "Certainly, we need to make a decision, and everyone needs to hear our case that, by trying to save a person, we will not be violating his human rights," the health minister said.

The problem of alcoholism has caught the attention of the public and politicians after a tragic homicide this week in the western Lithuanian village of Kražiai. A heavily intoxicated 57-year-old man with previous convictions is suspected of having murdered four women before robbing their houses and spending the money on alcohol. When the suspect was arrested, he was too drunk to be questioned by the police.

Under current regulations, a court order is required to put a person into an alcoholism treatment facility without his or her consent.

Lithuania's Minister of the Interior Saulius Skvernelis has urged caution when considering treating people against their will.

"Although the intentions are good, there are two aspects to consider. One is legality - will this [compulsory alcoholism treatment] be possible within our national legislation and in view of the Human Rights Convention. Another thing is how successful such a treatment would be. If specialist say that it's possible, we should look into such a possibility. We must try all measures," Skvernelis told the LRT radio.

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