Who benefits from the new act?

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 15 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1470
  1. David Crepaz-Keay, senior policy adviser, patient and public involvement (
  1. 1 Mental Health Foundation, London SE1 9QB

    Depriving someone of their liberty is one of the most serious actions that a state can take. To do this when someone has committed no crime is more serious still. If, in addition, the state then administers chemical and physical treatments that carry a substantial risk of disabling, and sometimes irreversible, damage, it must have the best possible justification for doing so.

    The government's proposal to replace the current mental health act gives us an opportunity to assess whether the proposed legislation is fit for purpose. An analysis of the issues around capacity suggests it leaves much to be desired in that respect.1 This is important, but it is not the only way in which the current proposal fails to justify the denial of basic rights.


    What is proposed (and, in fact, what we currently have) is not a mental health act but a compliance with treatment act. This was made explicit by Paul Boateng, who, when he was parliamentary under secretary of state for health, said that: “Non compliance can no longer be an …

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