Outrage after police taser patient with dementia (73) in Netherlands

Nursing home staff had reported man out of control and acting in a threatening manner

Dutch police have used a taser on a 73-year-old man with dementia after being called to the nursing home where he’s a live-in patient and being told he was behaving aggressively.

The use of tasers is banned in psychiatric institutions in the Netherlands, and the incident has caused outrage, with Amnesty International calling for an independent investigation – and the police admitting that using the taser was in breach of protocol.

Justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus described the incident as "an emergency situation" and appealed for understanding for the officer who fired the electric-shock weapon.

In response, Mr Grapperhaus himself has been criticised by civil rights organisations and patients’ groups, who said that if police were to be given tasers, they should be trained to know when their use was appropriate and inappropriate.


Threatening manner

It is understood that staff at the nursing home near Rotterdam, which has not been named, called the 112 emergency phone line, and reported that a patient was out of control and behaving in a threatening manner.

When the police arrived they found the elderly man had damaged a television and a plant pot, was also trying to smash a window with a length of metal, and was bleeding from both hands.

The officers tried to calm him down, adopting “a low-profile approach”, which didn’t work. They then considered using a pepper spray, but decided against it.

The taser – which fires a cartridge that delivers the electric shock – was used only as a last resort, they said.


The patient was handcuffed immediately after the incident so that he could be examined by a doctor.

Despite his age, he did not require hospitalisation for the shock.

Although the nursing home is not, strictly speaking, a psychiatric institution, the incident took place in its psychiatric ward, one of the locations where the use of tasers is forbidden, although neither staff nor the police was aware of that at the time.

Police chief Frank Paauw said he would look at the possibility of mapping such locations, in hospitals and nursing homes, into police control room computer systems – though he said that, in his opinion, police officers should not be called on to act in this type of institution.

Amnesty said research showed that using tasers against elderly people or those with mental health problems was unacceptable, not least because it increased the risk of fatal injury.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court