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Ever-Controversial Mental Health Act To Be Decided Upon

Patricia Hewitt, Britain’s Health Secretary called upon MPs to support the newly amended Mental Health Act bill yesterday, which she described// as striking the right balance between safeguarding patients’ rights as well as protection of the general public. She has urged for votes for the bill, stating that it will serve to bring about indispensable community care, in the treatment of mental patients.

As the bill goes to the House of Commons, its critics’ state that the proposals contained within the bill will be a deterrent to patients seeking treatment from such institutions. Liberal Democrats critics have condemned in particular, the clauses that call for the forcible detainment of mental health patients, even if they have not committed a crime in view of them being a threat to society.

Several charities have criticized the proposed bill saying that the legislation makers’ completely ignored all advice given by them. Stating that ‘ compulsion is not the only route to treatment ’, Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley also rejected the proposal.

Since 1998, mental health laws have been presented, rejected, amended and presented again with no conclusive effect. They remain as debatable as ever. The point at odds is the forcible detention of mental health persons if they are perceived as a threat to society- this being, even if they are not guilty of any crime.

One of the pioneers of mental health reforms was Enoch Powell who helped fade away the old dark and gloomy asylums of yore.

This was followed by treatment in the 1960s with symptom suppressing drugs and other psychiatric treatment.

Yet this policy of leniency began to be questioned after the early nineties due to incidents of murders carried out by mentally unsound persons, as they roamed around society, at free will. There were calls to the amendment of the 1983 Mental Health Act, which held that a person must be ‘treatable’ in order to be det ained against his own will.

In 1998, it was announced by the government that a person could be forcibly detained if it could be proved that he would benefit from the detention.

Since then, the mental health act has been dogged by debates and controversies. And over the time, persons with mental health problems have ended the lives of around 400 innocent citizens.


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