Until 1983, British mental health legislation had provided doctors and other state professionals with the power to hospitalise and treat people deemed to be mentally ill without their consent. This power was inherited from Victorian legislation. The 1983 Mental Health Act supposedly set certain limits on this legacy, in the interests of the civil liberties of patients. As the twenty-first century draws near and the Dickensian asylums close down, our data allows us to review whether or not we indeed now live in a relatively enlightened period. Two questions in particular are of interest. First, are legal safeguards such as the Mental Health Act Commission and that part of the 1983 Mental Health Act concerning consent to treatment (Section 57) really effective? Second, if a patient is technically ‘voluntary’ or ‘informal’ (that is, not formally detained under the Act), does this guarantee them the right to informed consent?
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Notes and References
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