Council’s actions in Prader-Willi case raises concerns

Last week a local authority citing the Mental Health Act put a
31-stone man into a mental health hospital against his will because
he could not stop eating, writes Amy

Chris Leppard, who has Prader-Willi syndrome and cannot tell
when his stomach is full, was admitted for an assessment and
detained for seven days.

Leppard said he will sue East Sussex social services. The
council said that it has followed “proper

Tony Holland, president of the Prader-Willi Syndrome
Association, said that the syndrome could come under the Mental
Health Act’s definition of mental disorder. “The
question is therefore not can it be used, but rather should it be
used?” he said.

“The Mental Health Act may have a place to play in acute
situations and only then as part of a longer term strategy to
establish an appropriate social care placement ideally
locally,” he added.

In this case the act was only used to carry out an assessment on
Leppard but if the draft mental health bill becomes law, people
with the syndrome could be forced into compulsory treatment.

Tim Spencer-Lane, mental health and disability policy advisor at
The Law Society, said the syndrome could “quite easily”
be seen as a mental disorder under the definition given in section
two of the Mental Health Act which allows authorities to detain a
patient in hospital for an assessment for up to 28 days.

However the syndrome would not come under the definition used in
the rest of the act because this is much tighter and therefore it
could not be used to give someone compulsory treatment.

However, he says the definition used in section two is the one
used for the whole of the draft mental health bill so compulsory
treatment, such as medication, could be given to a much wider range
of people.

“Someone with Prader-Willi syndrome could be put on a
compulsory treatment order under the new bill”, he said.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Mental Health Alliance, agreed that
the definition used in the draft bill will potentially increase the
number of people being compulsorily treated.

He added that under this bill, alcoholics and drug addicts could
also be made to have such treatment as unlike the current act there
are no exemptions from sectioning for these groups.

The alliance is campaigning for the exemptions to be included in
the new legislation.

It is also concerned about whether the system has the capacity
to cope this potential increase, he added.

Critics are concerned that the draft bill has the potential to
breach people’s human rights if it leads to people being
detained incorrectly.

Farmer says that there are human rights concerns but is hopeful
that they will be ironed out through the parliamentary process.

Leppard’s case highlights the challenges of having a
broad-based definition of a mental disorder.

As Martin Ball, spokesperson for mental health charity MACA
concludes: “People looking at that sort of example will begin
to think what will the state do with the new powers that the draft
bill contains?”

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