Mental health law is of course a specialist subject and this web site includes
a few sign-posts towards further information. It is therefore
advisable to verify
any details with a lawyer who specialises in the relevant
areas. As the law is
constantly changing (and I don't profess to be an expert in law) I can not
guarantee this information is up to date. However, you may find some of these
links helpful if you are looking for information
human rights or legal matters
in regard to mental health.
One of the central issues some people face are their rights to choice and
freedom (whether or not to be hospitalised for mental health concerns, or
whether or not to comply with a particular treatment) set against a doctor's
(and/or another relevant
wishes to impose restrictions on
personal freedom - such as through
"sectioning" within the mental health act.
This is referred to below.
Human rights for everyone
We each have the right to liberty, security and the right not to be treated in
a degrading way – as well as the right to work. These are central to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 and
European Convention on Human Rights. The Human Rights Act 1998
incorporates into UK law the European Convention on Human Rights. More...
Every adult has the right to make his/her own decisions and must be assumed
to have capacity to do so unless it is proved otherwise – in keeping with The
Mental Capacity Act 2005. More... and here.
Human rights and mental health in particular
In the UK the 1983 Mental Health Act (and as amended 2007) details what is
often referred to as “sectioning” - compulsory admission to a psychiatric unit
for assessment or for treatment. (Details of this act are available through the
Mind and Mental Health Law sites - please see the links on this page).
The 1983 Mental Health Act (and as amended 2007) details that patients
have the right to refuse medication except in limited circumstances (Part 4
Consent to treatment. More...).
With the Mental Health Act 2007 I understand that in some circumstances an
advance decision (living will) by a patient can overrule the doctors wish to
treat with ECT. More...
It is now (from August 2009) accepted that people considered to have a
mental illness are protected from discrimination by the European Convention
on Human Rights in that it was argued that mental illness was a disability.
This has significant implications for the workplace. More...
Community Treatment Orders (CTOs)
If you are under the restrictions of a CTO you may find it helpful to have the
advice of a lawyer who is a member of the Mental Health Lawyers Association.
See opposite for contact details.
In these circumstances you should be entitled to Independent Mental Health
Advocacy (IMHA). You can find out more about this on the internet. One such
link is here.
For more information on CTOs see here.
For a look at a review of research into CTOs (disparagingly referred to as
"Psychiatric Asbos") and their limitations, see here.
How to appeal against a section(source)
There are various ways a section
can be removed:
- The doctor can discharge a
person from a section at any
time by signing the
- The nearest relative of the
patient can submit a written
request asking for the
be discharged. The doctor has
a set amount of hours to look at
this request and then make a
- The patient can appeal to
Associate Mental Health Act
independent of the NHS trust to
review their detention.
- Finally, a patient can also apply
for a mental health tribunal. This
is a judicial
process, so a
solicitor is often present to
represent the patient.
Members of the patient's family,
a doctor, nurse and social
worker will be
present at this
hearing and the tribunal panel is
made up of a legal, medical
The patient will get a verbal
decision on the day and written
days after the
More information on making an appeal (section 2).
If any of this is helpful, or not accurate, or unhelpful, or if you have helpful
suggestions from your own experience, you are welcome to let me know via my
news and views blog page here
Zigmon, T. (2011) A Clinician's Brief Guide to the Mental Health Act. UK: Royal College of