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UK Considers More Forced Outpatient Drugging

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BBC reports that UK House of Lords may make it far easier to coerce people living in their own homes who have not broken any laws to take psychiatric drugs against their will.

BBC - 8 January 2007

Psychiatric Drug Brain HypoLords consider mental health laws


The House of Lords is carrying out a detailed consideration of proposals to introduce new mental health laws.


The new government bill would allow the enforced detention of people who are mentally ill, even if they have not committed any crime.

It also suggests strengthening powers established in 1983 to ensure patients have therapy once they are released back into the community.

Critics of the bill say it would fail to safeguard the rights of patients.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the bill would reflect changes to mental health services in recent years.

"We have made it very clear in the bill that appropriate treatment has to be available for detention to take place," she said.

Ensure medication

Current laws do not allow people with severe personality disorders who have committed no offence to be detained.

The government wants to give the right to force patients who have been released into the community to take their medication, even if they do not want to.

It also wants to allow the detention of people with personality orders who are described as untreatable, even if they have not committed a crime.

Doctors and campaigners argue the bill erodes the rights of patients without making the public any safer.

An amendment to ensure a set of guiding principles protecting patients' rights was debated.

Broadcaster and writer Lord Bragg, who takes the Labour whip, said this was of "crucial importance."

Treatments

He said: "People should retain as much autonomy as possible. People may have decision-making ability over many of the areas where decisions need to be made.

"It may be necessary for someone to receive treatment under compulsory powers, but they may have views and knowledge about which treatments have previously helped or harmed them."

He added: "People should be supported to make their own decisions where possible and given the same choices as people with physical health conditions."

The bill was promised in the Queen's Speech and comes after previous attempts to change the act were thwarted by opposition from campaigners and doctors.

The government published a draft Mental Health Bill in 2002, but dropped it last March.

Instead of replacing the old laws, the latest bill proposes amending the existing Mental Health Act from 1983.

Health Minister Lord Hunt said the proposed amendment was not appropriate in a bill that sought not to re-write the law completely but merely to amend the old act.

Conservative Lord Howe, who did not put his amendment to a vote, said: "I urge the government to be bold, to use this opportunity to put the legislation into a context of values and, in so doing, to make a real difference to mental health patients."

About 50 Labour MPs have already signalled their intention to oppose the bill, which would apply to England and Wales.

The changes would affect about 14,000 of the 600,000 people who use mental health services each year.

The desire to change the law was largely driven by Michael Stone's 1998 conviction for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell.

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Samantha Johnson, psychiatric survivor, MFI intern

Samantha Johnson is a 22-year-old psychiatric survivor who is interning at the MindFreedom International office. "I was absolutely in disbelief at how the people were treated at the hospital. It was an environment of emotional abuse interspersed with 'treatments' and 'policies' that could be more accurately described as assault. The tragic thing is that there really are some good people working there, but they are unable to provide people with the help they need inside a system that prioritizes profits over people. It might take five years of counseling for someone to truly recover from a mental health crisis, but it takes five minutes to tranquilize them. This is why I started working with MindFreedom. For 25 years MFI has been challenging the mental health system to see us as human beings- to treat us as human beings- through peaceful activism. At MFI we emphasize individual choice, empowerment, and compassion as necessary aspects of a true healing process."
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