Editorials

Detaining dangerous people with mental disorders

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7354.2 (Published 06 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:2

New legal framework is open for consultation

  1. Luke Birmingham, senior lecturer in forensic psychiatry. (L.Birmingham@soton.ac.uk)
  1. University of Southampton, Community Clinical Sciences Research Division, Knowle, Fareham, Hampshire PO17 5NA

    The draft mental health bill published last week introduces a new legal framework for the compulsory treatment of people with mental disorders in hospitals and in the community.1 On the day it was unveiled the bill was condemned and labelled as little more than a detention plan for dangerous mental patients.2 The white paper on reforming the Mental Health Act that preceded the draft bill attracted a great deal of attention because of its over-riding emphasis on public safety.35 The fact that it was not well received is hardly surprising given that it was born from an unpopular green paper and proposals for managing dangerous people with severe personality disorder described as glaringly wrong and unethical.610

    Rather than continuing the theme of public protection,3 the ministerial foreword accompanying the draft bill seeks to reassure us that the new law will promote patients' rights and protect them.11 The term “dangerous people with severe personality disorder” used in the white paper does not receive a single mention in the draft bill. This may offer some reassurance, but it does not mean that dangerous people with personality disorders or any other forms of mental disorder are excluded—far from it.

    The procedure for compulsion is very similar to that described in the white paper. This involves a single pathway …

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