Patients who cannot be treated are at risk of being detained in psychiatric facilities even if there is no prospect of doctors being able to provide a health benefit to them, said the BMA today (Thursday 31 January 2008), in its response to the Government's consultation on the revised draft of the 1983 Mental Health Act Code of Practice for England.
The BMA is extremely concerned that, as it stands, the revised draft could pose serious ethical problems for doctors. The BMA is now calling for aspects of the draft Code of Practice to be completely rewritten, in particular the areas surrounding what constitutes 'appropriate medical treatment'.
Doctors believe that if an individual is suffering from an untreatable personality disorder then there can be no justification for using mental health legislation to lock them away.
Chairman of the BMA's Medical Ethics Committee (MEC), Dr Tony Calland, said today:
"The only justification for detaining or sectioning someone is when there is a reasonable belief that there is likely to be an overall health benefit to the patient. It cannot be ethical to use mental health legislation to detain someone simply to keep them away from the public. Other legislation needs to be used for these purposes, for example, if there are fears that a patient may harm others because of their personality disorder then criminal justice law needs to be invoked not mental health legislation."
"We are extremely worried that the 'appropriate medical treatment test' has been so weakened in this draft code that it has become meaningless and could end up being used as a tool to detain people with untreatable behavioural problems. Doctors are trained to provide a health benefit to patients and they should not be used as pawns to lock away 'problem' individuals."
The BMA supports many aspects of the draft Code and now urges the government to work with the Association to amend the areas that are potentially harmful to patients.