Mental Health Bill: Lords defeat government over therapeutic compulsory treatment

The government’s controversial Mental Health Bill suffered a series of damaging defeats in the House of Lords yesterday.

Peers made three fundamental amendments to the bill including a requirement that compulsory mental health treatment have a therapeutic benefit.

The House of Lords backed by 186 votes to 115 an amendment ensuring that a person could only be detained if the treatment would be “likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration in his condition”.

The bill originally proposed abolishing the need for compulsory treatment to have a therapeutic benefit, principally so that people with a dangerous antisocial personality disorder, sometimes considered untreatable, could be detained.

But peers argued that without a therapeutic benefit test clinicians would be asked to act unethically by providing inappropriate treatment and acting as “turnkeys”.

The House of Lords also voted overwhelmingly to back an amendment preventing people from being sectioned solely on the basis of their substance misuse, sexual orientation or cultural beliefs.

And a third amendment, requiring that renewal of a detention be agreed by a medical practitioner and responsible clinician, was agreed by 147 votes to 108. Crossbench peer and former social worker Baroness Meacher suggested the bill as it stood could allow “the rather ludicrous possibility” that an occupational therapist or nurse could renew a detention against the advice of a psychiatrist.

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