Royal College of Psychiatrists gets it wrong again

Royal College of Psychiatrists Disappointed At Government’s Failure To Recognize People’s Capacity To Make Decisions For Themselves

(04 Jul 2007) The Royal College of Psychiatrists is deeply disappointed that government has failed to recognize that most people who suffer from mental illnesses are perfectly capable of making decisions for themselves, and present no threat to anyone. Yet, under the mental health bill, they will still have their choice of treatment overruled.

Nonetheless, the College welcomes a number of significant amendments that were made during the Bill’s passage through the House of Commons, including:

  • no patients can now be detained in hospital for a purpose other than to improve, or prevent, a deterioration in their health;
  • all detained patients will have access to an advocate
  • children will be treated in services which are appropriate to their age.

We welcome these amendments and others which are also beneficial to the care and treatment of mental health patients.

It is essential that sufficient resources are now provided for mental health services to ensure that the legislative changes can be made to work properly.

The College looks forward to continuing to work with Mental Health Alliance to ensure that the Code of Practice guides clinicians and others as to best practice.

“The College has worked very hard to try to ensure that the Mental Health Act 2007 respects the human rights of our patients, with the intention of benefiting their health and protecting them from causing any harm whilst unwell,” said Professor Sheila Hollins, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

“I am pleased with the fact that most of our advice has been heeded, although I remain concerned that so much of the detail has been left to the Code of Practice. The College is proud of its continuing membership of the Mental Health Alliance, an Alliance of 75 member organizations that remained united in representing the needs of people with mental illness and other mental disorders throughout the passage of this Act.”

“Although important and valuable changes have been made to the Bill as it passed through parliament, it is clear we ill have to wait for the next mental health act to see adequate and humane safeguards for both patients and the public,” said Dr Tony Zigmond, vice-president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

We’ve discussed the obstructionist and protectionist actions of the Royal College of Psychiatrists previously. First, the legislation does NOT make it easier to hospitalize people who “are perfectly capable of making decisions for themselves, and present no threat to anyone”. That is absolute balderdash. What the legislation does is extend the number of professions who are legally able to make decisions and recommendations about involuntary treatment in cases of imminent risk or incompetence. And THAT is what the Royal College of Psychiatrists is really opposing – because it will encroach on their historical sole authority in this realm.

Second, the legislation, as the College itself notes, includes provisions to prevent abuse of involuntary treatment. How does this do anything except (1) improve the quality of life for those mentally ill individuals who lack the insight to make informed decisions themselves, and (2) reduce the risk (cf. Kendra’s Law) to other people of untreated mental illness?

Kendra’s Law, mandated treament, mental illness, politics of medicine, Kendra’s Law

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