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Karina Hansen 1: Prisoner of Denmark

July 1, 2014

KarinaHansenStockPicIMPORTANT UPDATE 2016

This post is quite old and does not contain much detail about the background to Karina’s story. For newer and more in-depth analyses of Karina’s situation, the entire series can be viewed as a whole at the Karina Hansen series category section of this blog and particularly note Karina Hansen 6: The HOMECOMING 


Many readers will already be aware of the case of Karina Hansen. However, for those of you who are unfamiliar with her situation, this is a short re-cap of the facts as far as we know:

Karina (pictured above left), now aged 25, is a citizen of Denmark, a member state of the European Union. She was diagnosed in 2008 with a severe case of the illness myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME (also known, unhelpfully, as chronic fatigue syndrome or CFS). Her family cared for her at home until February 2013 when state intervention caused her to be forcibly removed to the Hammel Neurocenter for mandatory treatment as a de facto psychiatric patient. Despite the efforts of her family, friends and the international ME/CFS patient community to secure her release and return home, she has remained there ever since. The British charity Invest in ME has offered advice and assistance to the Danish authorities but has, so far, been ignored.


In the last year, Karina’s case has been taken up by Danish physician Dr Stig Gerdes. Dr Gerdes has challenged the whole concept of Functional Disorders  and, in particular, how this notion has been used to psychologise Karina’s original diagnosis of ME (something with which most ME patients – including me – will be all too familiar). Dr Per Fink who is in charge of Karina’s treatment at the Hammel Neurocenter, has been robustly defending himself against Dr Gerdes’ comments. An example of Dr Fink’s approach can be found here. It makes for chilling reading (the first couple of pages are enough to get the picture).

The debate between the two doctors has now descended into Dr Fink referring Dr Gerdes to the Danish Medical Ethics Board. Recent correspondence between them has been released by Dr Gerdes on this FB page (the name of which translates as “Caught in the Municipal System”) in a post dated 27 June 2014 (you may need a translation tool, as my link shows as “translation unavailable” but Google/Bing works well enough).

Unfortunately, the effect of this professional dispute is simply to deflect attention away from the real issue at the heart of this case which is the inappropriate medical treatment and enforced detention of a seriously ill young woman. For a more detailed account of the background to this case see this excellent blog post. It is from last year but the position has not changed substantially since then. [Note: unfortunately, Karina’s situation is far from being the only one of its kind. There are a number of similar cases worldwide involving both adults and children. This has been the position ever since this illness began to be documented in the 1930’s. However, that discussion is beyond the scope of this post].

Renewal of Karina’s state-appointed guardian

As is normal in such cases, Karina was assigned a state-appointed guardian to ostensibly represent her interests. On 25 June this year, the question of his re-appointment was considered by the court. The campaigning group Justice for Karina Hansen requested that members of the patient community send emails to the court to express their concern, with a copy to the Minister for Health. This is a valuable campaigning strategy although, for legal reasons, the emails will not have been considered in the court’s deliberations. In the event, Karina’s guardian was re-appointed until 22 September when there will be another court hearing. This the text of the email which I sent:

I have followed the case of Karina Hansen since her detention at the Hammel Neurocenter in February 2013. I understand that the renewal of the appointment of her guardian is due before the court on 25 June.
It is difficult to understand from the outside exactly what is happening as there is only a very limited amount of information available. However, from a medical perspective, Ms Hansen does not appear to be receiving appropriate medical treatment for her originally diagnosed condition of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).
From a legal perspective, it would appear that the actions of the Danish state might be in breach of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
These are matters of grave concern to the international ME/CFS patient community. I would suggest that Ms Hansen’s guardian has not fulfilled his obligations and duties and therefore his re-appointment may not be in Ms Hansen’s best interests.
I understand that, as an individual, I have no locus in the court hearing regarding Ms Hansen’s guardianship. Nevertheless, it is important that an expression of concern for the circumstances of this case can be publicly made to all the relevant parties.
Thank you for your attention.
Valerie Eliot Smith
UK lawyer and ME patient since 1981
[UPDATE November 2014: Following the hearing on 22 September, Karina’s guardian was reaffirmed in his post with no change. The Justice for Karina Hansen Facebook page posted this information following the September court hearing:
Karina is no longer at Hammel Neurocenter, but has been moved to Tagdækkervej, a different facility in Hammel……This new facility is within walking distance from Hammel Neurocenter. It is a facility where patients with different health issues live in small apartments for privacy, but have access to rehabilitation facilities and staff from Hammel Neurocenter. This facility has a special focus on patients with various brain injuries, but other patients are accepted.
To the best of my knowledge, Karina remains a “voluntary” patient.]
As I have been writing this, I am acutely aware of the fact that I do not have (nor has any other commentator, as far as I know) Karina’s express permission to write about what is happening to her. I am extremely unhappy about this. The most sensitive personal information relating to a seriously ill young woman has been made available for public discussion – often in very frank terms. It is impossible to confirm everything which is being said about the case; accurate information is difficult to obtain for legitimate reasons of medical and legal confidentiality. I have taken most of my material from the Justice for Karina Hansen Facebook page, along with implied permission to use this information publicly.
It is hard to see how change might be effected without massive external intervention, especially from the mainstream media organisations. Parliamentary and judicial scrutiny seem to have  yielded nothing of use thus far. Further widespread publicity may be the only tool left in the box; it is for that reason that I justify the writing of this post.
The incontrovertible facts appear to be these: a vulnerable young woman was detained, ostensibly as a “voluntary” patient, deemed legally incompetent and apparently allowed very limited access to her family. This has been the state-sanctioned position since February 2013. There is no discernible sign of improvement in her health. In the 21st century, in a supposedly democratic western European state, how can this possibly have happened?
23 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2014 09:08

    Reblogged this on Short Blogs for the Distracted……… and commented:
    Still not home…


  2. July 2, 2014 06:10

    This is a frightening and infuriating situation as are several others like it. I hope there are ways to increase awareness of this and, thereby, effect her release. Cases like this are bound to have a chilling effect if authorities are allowed to continue incarcerating people simply because of a diagnosis which they find inconvenient. Thank you for this update.


  3. July 3, 2014 00:36

    Free Karina!! Thank you Valerie!


  4. July 7, 2014 14:03

    I have just shared this on Facebook, it is an excellent overview and summary. As you say, how can this be happening ? Yet it is, psychiatry, against all possible reason, are engaged in wholescale devastation of lives. Tragically Karina finds herself right on the stark interface: and that, terrifyingly, is state-funded torture. Thank you for writing this important post.


  5. Anushka permalink
    July 12, 2014 17:23

    Thank you Valerie for your well written article.

    The sad part is that Karina is not the only victim of such state sanction medical abuse and torture. Many young children with ME are being taken away from their family — especially from single mothers — and put in mental institutions or psycho-somatic wards. Many mothers with ME and children with ME, in countries such as England, Germany, Switzerland and Holland, are living in constant fear of child protective services, many had to go in exile to save their children. Their stories are never told.

    Karina’s case is unusual because she is a grown woman and how can police break into a families home, snatch up a grown sick woman, hold her for years in a psychiatric ward, against her and her families will, isolated, and treat her with treatments which sound like torture methods out of the hand book of a totalitarian state?

    It is truly unbelievable !

    The state of Denmark should be ashamed, held responsible and all the psychiatrist who mistreat patients with ME be sued for malpractice.

    Keep writing about it. No silence please.


    • July 12, 2014 19:25

      Thank you for your comment, Anushka. You are quite right. Sadly there are far too many others in similar – or even worse – circumstances.

      Best wishes.


  6. August 11, 2014 23:31

    Reblogged this on The Other Side Of The Stretcher and commented:
    Karina Hansen: Diagnosed Severe ME in 2008 was Forcibly removed from her home, February of 2013, taken to the Hammel Neurocenter under the orders of Professor Per Fink for mandatory treatment as a psychiatric patient.
    Despite the efforts of Karina’s family, friends, The International ME community and legal team, Karina still remains a psychiatric patient at the Hammel Neuro Center via the orders of Psychiatrists Nils Balle Christensen and Professor Per Fink.
    Nils Balle Christensen and Professor Per Fink do not recognize the medical diagnosis of Myalgic Encephalomyalitis as medical diagnosis but as a “Functional Somatic Disorder.”
    Justice For Karina:
    Hammel Neurocenter:


  7. August 12, 2014 00:40

    Thankyou for your article, Reblogged!


  8. Aidan permalink
    December 19, 2015 15:32

    Quote by Dr Rodney Grahame Hypermobility Unit London 95% of patients diagnosed with CFS/ME Fibro have ‘undiagnosed’ Ehlers Danlos Syndrome type(s)


  9. March 7, 2016 20:33

    Mr Gerdes is in now way a specialist he is a common GP have never met Karina and have never seen her journal or been able to discuss Karina with doktors who have actually met her


  10. Sandy N permalink
    August 14, 2018 02:02

    Dr Fink treatment is a twisted sadistic method of blaming the patient for their illness. It can make the patient continually second guess themselves. The treatment is gaslighting the patient and keeping them in abusive relationship with the treatment center.



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