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Is Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment “Reasonable, Necessary, Justified and Proportionate”? David Webb.

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Presentation on theme: "Is Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment “Reasonable, Necessary, Justified and Proportionate”? David Webb."— Presentation transcript:

1 Is Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment “Reasonable, Necessary, Justified and Proportionate”? David Webb

2 Human Rights Charter on involuntary treatment Section 10 – Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment A person must not be— a)subjected to torture; or b)treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way; or c)subjected to medical or scientific experimentation or treatment without his or her full, free and informed consent medical treatment is a fundamental civil and political right in same category as torture coercive (not just involuntary) treatment is also prohibited medical experimentation (“clinical innovation”) is common practice in mental health – OK, but never without consent

3 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Article 12 - Equal recognition before the law 2.States Parties shall recognize that persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life 3.States Parties shall take appropriate measures to provide access by persons with disabilities to the support they may require in exercising their legal capacity Article 25 – Health (d)[States Parties shall] Require health professionals to provide care of the same quality to persons with disabilities, including on the basis of free and informed consent... Prohibits any discrimination on the basis of disability Paradigm shift from substituted to supported decision-making

4 Human Rights Charter – “limitations” Section 7 – what they are and when they may be limited (2) A human right may be subject under law only to such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and taking into account all relevant factors including— VEOHRC: limitations must be... reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate a)the nature of the right; and b)the importance of the purpose of the limitation; and c)the nature and extent of the limitation; and d)the relationship between the limitation and its purpose; and e)any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks to achieve.

5 Victoria’s Mental Health Act Section 8 – Criteria for involuntary treatment (a) the person appears to be mentally ill; and (b) the person's mental illness requires immediate treatment and that treatment can be obtained by the person being subject to an involuntary treatment order; and (c) because of the person's mental illness, involuntary treatment of the person is necessary for his or her health or safety (whether to prevent a deterioration in the person's physical or mental condition or otherwise) or for the protection of members of the public; and (d) the person has refused or is unable to consent to the necessary treatment for the mental illness; and (e) the person cannot receive adequate treatment for the mental illness in a manner less restrictive of his or her freedom of decision and action.

6 Human Rights Weaknesses of Mental Health Act [ NB – limiting rights is the sole purpose of MHA ] discriminates on basis of disability (medical diagnosis/status) based on inappropriate and obsolete medical model human rights are social, cultural, legal – not medical assumes validity of “mental illness” and psychiatric treatments assumes pragmatic argument for limiting rights – i.e. that it saves lives conflates involuntary detention with involuntary treatment conflates risk to others with risk to self high risk of harm, including risk of provoking suicide hypocrisy of “least restrictive means”

7 Validity of “Mental Illness”? " At the risk of making an overly broad statement of the status of neurobiological investigations of the major psychiatric disorders noted above, it can be concluded that the field of psychiatry has thus far failed to identify a single neurobiological phenotypic marker or gene that is useful in making a diagnosis of a major psychiatric disorder or for predicting response to psychopharmacologic treatment." A Research Agenda for DSM-V (p 33) Edited by David J. Kupfer, M.D., Michael B. First, M.D., and Darrel A. Regier, M.D., M.P.H. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, D.C., 2002 Available online for free, as a 332 page pdf document, at: In plain language... the best that can be said about the current scientific status of both psychiatric diagnosis and (bio)psychiatric treatments is that both are hypothetical

8 Conflating Risk of Harm to Self/Others Threat of harm to others socio-legal (not medical) issue for criminal justice system must be based on real, actual behaviour, same rules for everyone i.e. must not discriminate based on medical diagnosis/status discrimination in MHA not supported by evidence e.g. if serious about pre-emptive intervention of a high-risk demographic, then lock up young, drunk men! Risk of harm to self suicide is not illegal, but society’s wish to intervene is “reasonable” i.e. the only valid criteria for limiting rights in MHA Section but requires careful criteria, plus checks and balances, especially... what interventions are reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate?

9 Weaknesses of Medical Argument for Psychiatric Force Assumes pragmatic (not human rights) argument that force saves lives but force also costs lives, plus other great harm and suffering pragmatic equation requires evidence that lives saved > lives lost no research on this!... but... strong circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that force causes great harm and suffering, including suicide suicidality is not a medical condition psychiatric diagnosis is not good predictor of suicide (bio)psychiatric treatments not good protection against suicide involuntary psychiatric treatment poses real risk of worsening or triggering suicidality medical ethics – first do no harm, unpredictability, unreliability

10 “Forced Treatment Saved My Life” A potent justification for the pragmatic argument... perhaps... Personal testimonials are indeed the critical, missing evidence proper commission of enquiry needed need to hear from those harmed by psychiatric force sadly, the dead cannot testify! Then, and only then, can we apply pragmatic equation and ask is psychiatric force “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”? But, most importantly, in terms of human rights... You might think you can waive your human rights, but you are not entitled to waive mine!

11 Least Restrictive Means - Detention vs Treatment Need to decouple forced detention from forced treatment involuntary treatment is the more severe limitation many experience involuntary treatment as assault (torture) controls/alters who you are, not just where you are first requirement of suicide prevention is a safe space (sanctuary) sanctuary and involuntary treatment contradictory, mutually exclusive “Least restrictive means” – i.e. sanctuary without involuntary treatment is possible and does exist overseas but currently “unreasonably unavailable” in Victoria status quo, like pragmatic argument, is not sufficient Proper human rights analysis is required for any and each intervention that limits a person’s human rights... so to sum up...

12 The nature of the rightFundamental – the right to liberty The importance and purpose of the limitation High – to prevent suicide Nature and extent of the limitation Severe – loss of liberty Requires careful criteria for assessing suicidality, plus checks and balances to protect against misuse Relationship between limitation and its purpose Strong – ensures safety of suicidal person Any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks to achieve Could be reasonably available and achieves purpose with minimal restriction (but requires checks and balances as noted above). Involuntary Detention – Human Rights Analysis

13 The nature of the rightFundamental – right to refuse medical treatment and to physical and mental integrity The importance and purpose of the limitation Questionable – psychiatric diagnosis/treatment inadequate for assessing/helping suicidality Nature and extent of the limitation Extreme and risky – loss of physical and mental integrity, risk of suicide Relationship between limitation and its purpose Weak – little evidence that it saves lives, significant evidence that it can cause harm Any less restrictive means reasonably available to achieve the purpose that the limitation seeks to achieve Less restrictive means possible (but are unreasonably unavailable), weak link between limitation and purpose Involuntary Treatment - Human Rights Analysis

14 Conclusions Involuntary detention can be demonstrably justified as reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate when, and only when, there is a demonstrable risk of serious self-harm. Involuntary psychiatric treatment cannot be demonstrably justified as reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate under any circumstances. Replace (i.e. abolish) Mental Health Act with Suicide Prevention Act sole purpose is to help prevent suicide only human rights “limitation” is power to detain someone to safety no discrimination on basis of disability (i.e. medical diagnosis/status) no medical treatment without full, free and informed consent


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