The draft mental health bill could threaten people’s human
rights, the House of Commons joint committee on human rights has
warned, writes Katie Leason.
The committee refers to a number of matters in its 25th report
which “still cause us some concern on human rights grounds”.
It warns that the proposed definition of mental disorder is
“over-inclusive” and could potentially cover a number of
conditions, which would not normally be characterised as mental
Under the draft bill, the range of conditions covered by the
definition of mental disorder could include addiction and learning
disorders, and could also include illnesses which affect organs
other than the brain, but interfere with mental functioning.
The report also states that the range of conditions could even
encompass diabetes if the patient was suffering a hyperglycaemic
attack which interfered with brain function.
The committee concludes that the definition “goes much further
than necessary to ensure that dangerous people can be removed from
situations in which they put themselves or others at risk”, and
recommends it be reviewed.
“In our view it would unduly interfere with the right of people
suffering from disorders which do not normally affect mental
function to control the kinds of treatment which they accept.”
The committee finds that according to the draft bill, people
with severe personality disorders could be detained for preventive
reasons, and recommends that when the government introduces the
bill to parliament it should make publicly available an “account of
risk factors” to be used in assessing such cases and their
In addition, it concludes that the right of patients to give
directions about their future treatment when they are capable of
doing so should be respected, and warns that without an independent
specialist commission, mental health patients may not be
To read the report in full