Mad in Australia Update November 2013
This publication exposes the history of abuse of mental health patients in historical and cultural context. It identifies how the culture of doctors forcing medication onmental health patients began, in breach of their ethical obligations, and against the evidence of its effectiveness. It also offers solutions. Click the link below to readthe latest edition.
You can also download the latest edition (Nov 6, 2013) here.
2. History- The Abuse of Mental Health Patients
3. The Power of the Pharmaceutical Industry
4. International Treatment of the Mentally Ill
6. The Reality of Forced Treatment in Australia
6.1 The Practice of Sedation
7. Opposition to Involuntary Treatment
8. Alternatives to Forced Treatment and their Therapeutic Benefits
9 New Directions
I first met Saeed Dezfouli in 2002 while working as the Executive Officer of the NSW Consumer Advisory Group . He requested support for a range of problems heand other consumers were experiencing at Long Bay Jail.
Over the next few years, I started to explore how we could shine a light on the treatment of forensic patients in NSW. I learnt that this was not an area where thebureaucracy in NSW wanted any support from consumers to change even after they helped develop the Charter for Mental Health Care in NSW in 1998  with Professor Beverley Raphael.
Forensicare in Victoria has been much more progressive in how it has partnered with consumers and carers to bring its forensic services into the 21st century. To find the support I needed in NSW I had to look outside the mental health area and found Justice Action  in 2003, which took on Saeed’s case to bring his concerns to a wider public.
The same frustration that I was feeling was expressed in the Obsessive Hope Disorder Report  which noted that mental health urgently requires vigorousadvocacy and broad based community leadership. This report criticised the Government’s response to the 1993 National Inquiry into the Human Rights of People with Mental Illness  as inadequate and under-resourced.
My hope with the start-up of the National Mental Health Commission is that NSW will no longer be able to ignore the issues identified by MAD in Australia. One of thechallenges for John Feneley, the NSW Mental Health Commissioner, is to avoid service-focused thinking and instead embody a people-centred approach to mental health reform.
I believe he is well on his way to bringing these issues to the NSW Government’s attention.
Consumer Researcher and Activist
Mad in Australia documents the history of abuse towards mental health patients in Australia, with reference to international practices. It describes the historical
and cultural context of the abuse of mental health patients, and identifies the beginnings of a culture of doctors forcing medication on mental health patients.
Mad in Australia also draws specific attention to a significant element of this subject – the ethical dilemmas and corruption underlying the relationship between the
pharmaceutical industry and medicine.
The historyof mental illness treatments  is stark. During the worst times treatment amounted to ‘killing patients’ by drowning them and then reviving them inthe hope of cleansing them of their ‘unhappy condition’. The most barbaric ‘therapies’ were justified by the belief that the mentally ill were subhuman and should be disposed of.
The twentieth century ushered in a new era of psychiatric treatment with the development of psychiatric drugs by pharmaceutical companies. Such developments supposedly introduced more humane and scientifically correct methods of treatment. However, the political and economic power of the pharmaceutical industry has brought their products and agendas into the limelight for public scrutiny. Bracken & Thomas (2009, p. 245) argued that the credibility of the psychiatric profession has been brought into disrepute ‘through the corruption of our research and training agendas by the interests of major drug companies in alliance with senior individuals from our profession’ .
Our report draws on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) eight-year study which compared the effectiveness of treatments in Western and developing
countries. In follow-ups conducted after five years, 64% of mental health patients were asymptomatic in developing countries as opposed to a mere 18%
in developed countries . The results indicate that social support nurtures higher rates of recovery while medical intervention is harmful. The project
‘Soteria’ produced similar findings, with 68% of patients who received neuroleptic (antipsychotic drug) treatment relapsing within the two-year follow-up
period compared to a 31% relapse rate for those who had undergone the community inclusion program and continued to avoid medication after
the project .
Mad in Australia concludes that the significantly lower recovery rate of mental health patients in developed countries may be imputed to the ‘scientific’
drugs and chemicals lacking in developed countries. These findings confrontthe presumption that neuroleptics effectively treat symptoms of mental illness.
Given such statistics, the practice of forced medication (with neuroleptics) must be regarded as a serious violation and infringement of basic human rights
with no empirical justification. The power and control of the pharmaceutical industry remains undiminished despite the studies that expose the failures of
the psychiatric drugs it vigorously promotes. Investigations have shown that such psychiatric drugs are sometimes ineffective, dangerous, or both .
In fact, a recent study concluded that newer classes of anti-depressants (which are the most prescribed psychiatric drug) are merely a placebo for most
Mad in Australia explores the legal and personal implications of forced treatment of mentalhealth patients with reference to domestic and international principles and practices. It raises the moral questions about involuntary treatment and shows that disregarding patients’ rights to control their medication is unethical, unreasonable and counterproductive. It argues that the right of individuals to make choices about how their body is treated is inherent in one’s civil recognition as a person.
Moreover, this report claims that personal control of health services is a fundamental human right and should be overruled only when critically necessary. This analysis presents a reality that is functionally different to the legal and ethical framework implemented by the state. It focuses on the lack of human rights protection in Australia, particularly for involuntary patients, and the corruptible framework built by powerful pharmaceutical companies that heavily influence the mental health profession.
In the widely circulated report, Not for Service (2005), by the Mental Health Council of Australia and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission,
evidence of the injustices experienced by mental health care patients in Australia was documented, and recommendations were proposed. However, these
recommendations have been ignored by the government, and the voice of the consumer has therefore been stifled .
Mad in Australia examines international standards (particularly those presented by the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, and supported by the Council of Europe) which recognise the rights of mentally ill patients. It considers the many jurisdictions that no longer allow forced treatment to be an automatic consequence of involuntary confinement. This situation is contrasted with the Australian position, which disregards the fundamental human rights of involuntary patients to be active participants in decisions regarding their treatment, especially when it comes to practices of sedation.
Mad in Australia also assesses the normative value of involuntary medication, arguing that it isuntenable within a principled framework of the relationship between state and citizen. It shows that involuntary treatment fails to achieve its intended effects. Research demonstrates that it disturbs rather than helps patients, causing very significant side effects that they fear and detest. In fact, it could be argued that, in circumventing patients’ rights to consent to and decide which chemicals, if any, are used in their treatment, mental health care professionals are instead poisoning their patients.
While this paper concedes the value of forced medication in very limited short-term situations, it also exposes the reality of the regular breach of patients’ integrity when, instead of discussing options with patients and letting them make the decision, patients’ rights are routinely usurped, superseded by the beliefs of their doctors in a routine that has proven to be both unjustified and, often, even harmful. This paper highlights the discriminatory nature of forced injections, which infringe on the rights of disabled people to be treated with respect for their physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.
The latter half of this paper proposes alternative approaches to forced treatment. These include patient-centred psychological treatment that is effective for patients in psychosis, as well as other measures proposed by patients themselves that are not currently considered but are consistent with domestic and international law. These methods require effort, patience and respect. This paper concludes with the proposition that consensual treatment is the only acceptable form of ‘care’.
2. History – The Abuse of Mental Health Patients
At the start of the 18th century, the ‘insane’ were typically viewed as wild animals who had lost their reason. They were subject to scorn and ridicule by the public, sometimes kept in madhouses in appalling conditions, often in chains, and neglected for years or subject to numerous tortuous ‘treatments’ including whipping, beating, bloodletting, shocking, starvation, irritant chemicals, and isolation. Hateful rhetoric like ‘poisonous slime’ and ‘malignant biological growths’ further vindicated the liberal use of force in shockingly inventive ways like choking patients by wrapping a wet towel around their necks and twisting it until they fell unconscious or slugging them to the same effect with a hard bar of soap in the toe of a sock.
Moral treatment was an approach to mental disorder that emerged in the 18th century. The ex-patient Jean-Baptiste Pussin (1746–1811) and his wife Marguerite, and the physician Philippe Pinel (1745–1826) are recognised as the first instigators of more humane conditions in asylums. William Tuke (1732 – 1822) also played a fundamental role in developing more humane approaches that came to be known as moral treatment.
In 1797, Pussin first freed patients of their chains and banned physical punishment, although straitjackets could be used instead. Patients were allowed to move freely about the hospital grounds, and eventually dark dungeons were replaced with sunny, well-ventilated rooms.
Pinel used the term ‘traitement moral’ for the new approach. At that time, the word ‘moral’, in French and internationally, denoted either psychological/emotional (as a mental state) or moral (as an ethical principle). Pinel distanced himself from the more religious approach that was emerging in Britain, and considered that excessive religiosity could be harmful to the patient.
With ‘moral treatment,’ patients were cared for with the utmost diligence and humanity. Patients were housed in facilities to match that of a modest hotel, and staff were selected according to specific job requirements such as ‘pleasantness of expression’ and ‘softness of tone’.
Those in asylums were treated as humans, given lectures, responsibilities, and a quasi-family to interact with in an attempt to ease their reintegration with the wider society upon release. These requirements made staff harder to hire and asylums more expensive to maintain.
The ‘moral treatment’ movement was initially opposed by many madhouse keepers and medics, the latter opposing it partly because it cast doubt on their own approach. By the mid-19th century, however, many medics had changed their strategy. They became advocates of moral treatment, but argued that since the mentally ill often had separate physical/organic problems, medical approaches were also necessary.
Making this argument stick has been described as an important step in the profession’s eventual success at securing a monopoly on the treatment of ‘lunacy’.
The increased institutionalisation and bureaucratisation of the mental health sector led to disregard of ‘moral treatment’ and the rise of the modern formula of patient oppression in an attempt to regulate their stay at asylums and ease the financial burden on the mental care industry.
There have been many different theories about the cause of mental disease in patients. Theories including bad spirits, unregulated blood flow, madness-causing bacteria, diseased brain cells, overstimulation of nerves and too many or too sensitive dopamine receptors, were all treated ‘scientifically’ at varying points in history.
These theories were sometimes used to justify various treatments such as leeching, drowning, opiates, lobotomy, electroshock (now actually increasing in usage in WA) and neuroleptics, which all had the common side effect of oppressing the patient and transforming them into submissive bodies.
This reduced activity in patients is regarded as an improvement in their condition, and thus a reflection of the supposed effectiveness of these treatments.
The practice of mental health treatment has changed over the decades, resulting in the replacement of that which was already bad by that which is even worse.
Although treatments may appear to have improved, the main focus of today’s ‘scientific’ and widely accepted treatment of the mentally disabled is in fact a system of complete control, and not the rehabilitation of patients with such conditions.
In Australia, many involuntary patients are sedated (and medicated) against their will, exemplifying the desire of mental health institutes not to nurture but to oppress.
The use of neuroleptics has been relied on as a basis for the theory of mental disease, an illogical conclusion as medical treatment should be grounded by sound scientific evidence, not the other way around. Such placement of the cart before the horse is alarming.
The treatment patients received at the notorious Chelmsford Hospital epitomise the mental health paradigm in Australia. Chelmsford Hospital’s infamous ‘Deep Sleep Therapy’ left patients either more damaged or dead, and yet almost half a century later, victims have yet to receive a formal apology.
Released every few years under a different name, new neuroleptic medication promises improvements over the old, the main difference being a reduced probability of extrapyramidal symptoms (movement disorders). However, neuroleptics are still widely used to calm and settle patients, despite their controversial and debatable effectiveness in curing the disease in question. The treatment rates of the current psychotic medication (Clozapine, Palaperidone) are the same as the old antipsychotic neuroleptic medication (Chloropromazine, Haloperidol).
There are non-medicinal treatments that offer alternatives to neuroleptics, but the monopoly of psychiatrists (and behind them the pharmaceutical industry) has blocked challenges to the efficacy of neuroleptics. Mosher, Rappaport, Crane and Breggin, all fell out with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the USA over alternatives to neuroleptics.
Even more staggering is the power of the pharmaceutical industry to suppress potentially helpful medications. During the 1950s, pharmaceutical companies denied research on the benefits of lithium for bipolar research. This is in large part due to the lithium’s status as intellectual property: as a naturally occurring element, it is not possible to take out a patent on it. Despite the potential benefits of lithium as a medication for a myriad of illnesses, both medical and psychological, there is no funding for research as costs are too high and there is no profit involved.
Loren Mosher started a moral treatment project named ‘Soteria’, which delivered unprecedented results: ‘… subjects in both groups (who participated in the project) improved significantly and comparably, despite Soteria subjects not having received neuroleptic drugs’. This project was aimed at both curing and preventing the relapse of schizophrenia.
His work was replicated in Sweden, but was refuted in the USA by theNational Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which doubted that ordinary people working in Soteria could treat mental illnesses more successfully than highly educated psychiatrists.
‘The importance of social inclusion to good mental health and an effective and responsive community-based approach’ further supports the notion that drugs are not necessary in treating the mentally ill, as demonstrated by the Soteria project.
Perhaps one of the strongest indicators of the inadequacies of modern Western treatments for mental illness is the WHO’s eight-year study into three poor countries; India, Nigeria and Colombia (1969), which in the two- and five-year follow-ups revealed that patients in these Third World countries were performing significantly better than those in the USA and four other First World countries.
After five years, 64% of those in the developing countries were asymptomatic compared to 18% in developed countries.
These results support the argument that Third World countries have more effective treatment in relation to mental health. As Whitaker stated, ‘Africans and Asians were better off because they lacked the very drugs on which we rely.’
Up to now, the most widely accepted theory states that neuroleptics are able to treat the symptoms of mental illness (such as schizophrenia) by blocking dopamine signals but not the mental illness itself. Any blockage of dopamine results in impaired concentration, reduced motivation, increased perception of pain, and in some cases renders the person incapable of experiencing pleasure.
Additionally, neuroleptic medication has been proven to increase a patient’s sensitivity to dopamine, as the restriction of dopamine due to neuroleptics forces the brain to produce more dopamine receptors.
In addition to this, Magnetic Residence Imaging (MRIs) of patients taking neuroleptics showed that frontal lobe size and white matter reduced as the medication was continued, exacerbating symptoms of reduced cognitive abilities.
3. The Power of the Pharmaceutical Industry
‘One of the medical community’s major responsibilities is to protect us from the commercial excesses of the pharmaceutical industry, but what we find is the exact opposite. They are in bed with them.’
The pharmaceutical industry is a superpower in the Australian and global economy. The vast amounts of money underpinning the industry give it the ability to dictate and demand many self-serving interests. Figures released by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education show that the Australian pharmaceutical industry turned over about $22 billion in 2009-10. The industry spent $1.02 billion on research and development in 2008-09 and exported $4.12 billion in the 2009-10 financial year. Furthermore, although it was ranked 55th on population in the world in 2009, Australia was the 12th largest pharmaceuticals market by sales. According to a leading health economist, Australia spends up to $3 billion a year more than it requires in comparison with similar countries. The expenditure on the Pharmaceuticals Benefit Scheme by the government has more than doubled over the last decade, from $3.2 billion in 1999-2000 to $8.3 billion in 2009-10.
The power and influence of the industry in the US is also staggering. In the US, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists outnumber Congress members. In 1999 and 2000, lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry had a $197 million budget, which was $50 million more than the insurance and telecommunications industries. In 2000, the industry invested $15.7 billion in marketing. Dr Joanna Montcrieff, a Senior Professor at the Department of Mental Health Sciences at University College in London, stated that drug manufacturers spend billions yearly on marketing and advertising, far beyond expenditure on actual research.
As Loren R. Mosher says, ‘What should be the most humanistic medical specialty has become mechanistic, reductionist, tunnel-visioned and dehumanizing. Modern psychiatry has forgotten the Hippocratic principle: Above all, do no harm.
The pharmaceutical industry has adopted an agenda of robustly heightening public hype around a specific psychiatric illness depending on which drug it wishes to market. When the industry produced Xanax in the 1980s it generated a surge of interest in panic disorder. This was the first time a pharmaceutical company invested huge amounts of money to market its product and link that product to a new and specific diagnostic category. Although there were other psychiatric disorders during the 1980s, they paled in importance. It became clear that only disorders that the pharmaceutical industry could derive a profit from received much attention.
This culture of discriminatory treatment and selective sponsorship continues to affect psychiatric treatment today. As one critic states, ‘it may often be far more effective to sell the clinical indication of the existence of a disorder than to focus on selling the treatment for it’.
The power of the pharmaceutical industry heavily influences the mental health profession which provides a productive field for industry profits. Medical and psychiatric professionals are now so dependent on pharmaceutical companies that they are reluctant to reveal conflicting interests and to criticise the overuse and misuse of psychotropic drugs. Pharmaceutical companies have effectively assumed authority over those professions that have been entrusted to care for patients in mental health facilities.
This situation exposes a crucial element in understanding the treatment of patients, namely that doctors, nurses and psychiatrists are medicating vulnerable patients. The Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton stated that doctors must be cynical about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. He refused to use professionals recruited and trained by pharmaceutical companies, ‘for the express purpose that their ultimate aim in life is to get the dose of whatever is prescribed (increased). That is a conflict of interest’.
As Ray Williams noted, ‘In 2001, US pharmaceutical company profits averaged 18.5% of revenue compared with 2.2% for the rest of the Fortune 500 companies (Fortune magazine, April, 2002). Imagine what the figures are today’.
An Age investigation found that thousands of GPs have attended federal government-approved mental health training programs that are fully sponsored by Pfizer. Pfizer continually tries to reassure GPs that Pfizer training will enable GPs to better diagnose psychiatric illness. The inevitable result is that Pfizer will prescribe more psychiatric drugs. A 2003 analysis by Monash University found that most people tested were being diagnosed with a mental disorder they did not even have. Pharmaceutical representatives regularly host promotional events for mental health professionals, giving information on specific drugsor general mental health issues and even promotional ‘gifts’. Reports show that drug companies spend $30 million a year on hospitality for health professionals to attend ‘educational events’. The Australian Medical Association has described such ‘educational events’ as ‘marketing exercises’ for drug companies.Pharmaceutical companies also often employed and trained nurses who would then work for free or for subsidised wages at GP clinics.
Medicines Australia reported that from 2011 to 2012, it spent $29.4 million on hospitality for 385,871 health professionals. Sanofi-Aventis spent $54,348 on a weekend training session for 80 neurologists at the Rendezvous Hotel in Melbourne, including $24,683 on flights, $15,480 on hotel rooms and $13,184 on meals. Pfizer spent $192,924 hosting 104 GPs for a weekend meeting at the five-star Sofitel Hotel on the Gold Coast. Pfizer also spent $612,962 on a one-day meeting of 221 GPs at the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney. These are only a few of the many ‘hospitality’ benefits afforded to medical and health professionals courtesy of large pharmaceutical companies.
The above paragraphs exemplify how the overbearing power and influence of the pharmaceutical industry has seriously undermined the credibility and ethics of the medical and health professions.
4. International Treatment of the Mentally Ill
There are multiple international examples where states have appropriately balanced the needs of the state with the rights of the individual, serving as a valuable point of comparison with the Australia legal framework. In particular, note the distinction between involuntary confinement and the restriction of the right to refuse certain medical treatments. In Europe, the legal right of individuals to make decisions in relation to medical treatment can be found in the right to privacy in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), stating the right to be free from inhuman treatment.24
Further the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre (MDAC), supported by the Council of Europe, states that ‘the right to decide is not contingent on the convenienceof economic efficiency to the state of the person being treated, nor whether the decision to refuse treatment by the patient is not the correct thing to do. It is simply a right that we enjoy’.
The MDAC argues that the relationship between compulsory detention and treatment does not necessarily follow. Theoretically there is nothing inconsistent with involuntary detention and allowing the individual the authority to make treatment decisions.
Although it has been argued that justification of confinement was for medical benefit, this is not the way human rights law, and the ECHR in particular, have viewed confinement. According to the MDAC, the Strasbourg Court has never suggested that there must be an effective treatment plan for the justification of confinement. Confinement has been determined on dangerousness and severity, rather than treatability. Thus, even if a patient is confined on grounds of being dangerous, there should not be an automatic removal of a patient’s rights to treatment decisions.
There is an increasing international view that if patients are able to understand relevant information in relation to treatment decisions, they ought to be able to decide on their treatment, regardless of their place of residence. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture outlines this view:
Patients should, as a matter of principle, be placed in a position to give their free and informed consent to treatment. The admission of a person to a psychiatric establishment on an involuntary basis should not be construed as authorising treatment without his consent. It follows that every competent patient, whether voluntary or involuntary, should be given the opportunity to refuse treatment or other medical intervention.
The MDAC advocates that the right to make treatment decisions should depend on capacity, rather than confinement. What constitutes ‘capacity’ itself is a debated issue. The individual should have the intellectual capacity to understand the diagnosis and basic information. In New South Wales, for example, according to section 153(1) of the Mental Health Act 2007, the test for determining whether a person is mentally ill or mentally disordered is on the balance of probabilities (i.e. a member of the Mental Health Tribunal must be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person is a mentally ill or a mentally disordered person). It is the responsibility of the doctor to explain the treatment information in basic language. The United Nation reinforces this responsibility with Principle 11 of the ‘Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness’:
Informed consent is consent obtained freely, without threats or improper inducements, after appropriate disclosure to the patient of adequate andeasy to understand information in a form and language understood by the patient on:
a) The diagnostic assessment;
b) The purpose, method, likely duration and expected benefit of the proposed treatment;
c) Alternative modes of treatment, including those less intrusive; and
d) Possible pain or discomfort, risks and side effects of the proposed treatment.
An invasion of a person’s body is an interference with their private life under Article 8 of the ECHR. However, Article 8(2) allows for medical treatment ‘for the protection of health’. The courts have, however, emphasised the need for vigilance when assessing whether someone ‘needs’ medical treatment. Bensaid v United Kingdom reinforced that ‘mental health must be regarded as a crucial part of private life associated with the aspect of moral integrity’.
The Council of Europe has established that treatment without consent should be based on law and ‘only relate to strictly defined exceptional circumstances’.
Treatment without consent must therefore be based on clear grounds related to the health and safety of the patient or for the protection of others.
It reiterates that a person’s body concerns the most intimate aspect of private life. Thus a compulsory medical intervention, even if it is of minor importance,
In some Canadian jurisdictions, patients with the capacity to make treatment decisions are able to exercise the right to make those decisions. The medical
profession initially received this approach with great concern, but contrary to their fears, implementation raised few practical problems and with time the medical
The Court found that setting aside his competent wishes was contrary to his right to life, liberty and security under section 7 of Canadian Charter.
it was established that only a finding of ‘dangerous to self or others’ is necessary in order to deprive a person of their individual freedoms. Furthermore it was found
emergency in which failure to do so would cause harm to the patient or others. The court also highlighted that:
1. Involuntary hospitalisation did not equate to incompetence;
2. Detained patients with a mental illness had a qualified right to refuse psychotropic and antipsychotic drugs;
3. Some kind of procedural mechanism taking into account the issue of side effects and other factors was necessary to ensure that the patients' rights were respected.
In Rennie v Klein , the District Court took a similar approach and decided that, in the absence of an emergency, the right to refuse treatment is grounded on the emerging constitutional right to privacy. The court noted four conditions when this can be overridden:
1. Whether or not the patient can be confined without endangering other patients or staff;
2. If the medication refused would have curbed the dangerous tendencies;
3. Whether the patient is competent to make the decision; and
4. Whether or not there is a less restrictive alternative available.
4.1 The Issue of Human Rights
Literature on the right of mental health patients to refuse treatment is grounded in the United Nations human rights ideals and international principles on the rights of the individual. This includes, but is not limited to, Principles of Persons with Mental Illness and Improvement of Mental Health adopted by General Assembly Resolution in 1991, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2007, and the United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with disabilities, 1993.
These protections of international law are insufficient for two key reasons. Firstly, despite Australia being a signatory to many international conventionspromoting the protection of human rights, the power to enforce these treaties lies within the Federal government in passing those treaties into domestic law. Secondly, even when the international agreements are enacted into domestic law (thus becoming enforceable and binding on every Australian citizen), they are usually written in such a way that facilities (such as Long Bay Forensic Hospital) can still abuse the rights of the patients without suffering any real consequences.
Countries such as the United States and Canada have a Constitutional Bill of Rights, and the United Kingdom has a Statutory Human Rights Act, thus providing a legal basis by which action can be taken for violation of an individual’s rights. Unfortunately, human rights in Australia are much less entrenched than in similar liberal democracies, relying on a few implied rights in the Constitution and Common Law protections, with the exception of the ACTand Victoria,both of which have a Bill of Rights. These are evidently not strong enough to protect individuals from a paternalistic health department and interventionist state authority.
The lack of explicit and enforceable human rights protections for mental health patients creates a farcical situation where the needs of individual people, which have been recognised time and time again in aspirational human rights statements, are ignored in the face of bureaucratic inertia and systemic abuse.
5. Australian Legislation
In some Australian jurisdictions, as in the United States and Canada, clinical standards alone are no longer considered a sufficient justification for the restriction and loss of liberty of mentally ill patients. The statutory tests for compulsory treatment, although differing with jurisdictions, generally consist of a number of objective criteria superimposing a ‘dangerousness’ or harm prerequisite over a ‘need for treatment’. The Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), for example, is more representative of the ‘dangerousness’ standard in its requirement that ‘care, treatment or control of the person’ must be necessary in order to prevent ‘serious harm’ likely to themselves and others from their mental illness. The need for treatment, and the benefits from such treatment, is the approach taken in the Victorian and ACT provisions. The Victorian Act requires that the person’s illness must require immediate treatment (in line with the standard preferred by the court in Lessard v Schmidt).
International legal frameworks may be contrasted to those in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, under which a person subject to an order authorising compulsory treatment may generally be provided with medication regardless of whether or not they object. This stems from the understanding that involuntary patients are incompetent to make treatment decisions while in confinement. However, this justification is far from compelling, given that there is no express requirement that a patient be incompetent in order to be subjected to compulsory treatment.
Regardless of the validation that is given in the legislation, in a practical sense, the NSW legislation in particular simply creates a blanket authority that an involuntary patient does not have any right to refuse treatment that the treating doctor ‘thinks fit’. There is no need or requirement for external application to give a doctor this power; rather, legislation assumes incompetence on the part of the patient regardless of the specific circumstances of the individual.
Australian mental health statutes, specifically the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), in addition to listing a set of objectives regarding the provision of care and treatment, also contain an attempt to give direction to decision-makers to implement those objectives with little or no input from the patient. This decision is left to the discretion of the treating doctor.
For example the objectives of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) are:
a)To provide for the care, treatment and control of persons who are mentally ill or mentally disordered, and
b)To facilitate the care, treatment and control of those persons through community care facilities, and
c)To facilitate the provision of hospital care for those persons on a voluntary basis where appropriate and, in a limited number of situations, on an involuntary basis, and
d)While protecting the civil rights of those persons, to give an opportunity for those persons to have access to appropriate care, and
e)To facilitate the involvement of those persons, and persons caring for them, in decisions involving appropriate care, treatment and control.
However, section 84, which governs the treatment of patients, states that:
An authorised medical officer of a mental health facility may, subject to this Act and the Mental Health (Forensic) Act 1990, give, or authorise the giving of,
any treatment (including any medication) the officer thinks fit to an involuntary patient or assessable person detained in the facility in accordance with
this Act or that Act.
This broad authorisation allows involuntary patients to be treated against their will in NSW. There is little safeguard of the patients’ rights and no need for any other independent application to get authorisation to override lack of consent. The NSW position is not in line with any of the international standards and trends.
As international law develops to recognise the right to refuse treatment, even for patients who are involuntarily hospitalised, NSW has stood still in the protection
of civil and human rights.
The Mental Health Act 1996 (TAS) provides a more desirable approach to the treatment of involuntary patients than other jurisdictions in Australia. Under the Act,
a patient in the Tasmanian jurisdiction cannot be forcibly treated merely when the treating doctor ‘thinks fit’. Rather, an application has to be made under the
Tasmanian legislation appears to have favoured the rights of the patient and has created a rebuttable presumption that involuntary patients are competent,
unless decided otherwise by the Board. The approach taken in Tasmania demonstrates that while patients can be involuntarily detained, they are still able to
Ultimately, despite the good intentions in the objectives of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), which value the rights of the patient, in reality, the legislation has granted exceptional discretion and power to mental health professionals. If a patient refuses medication, a nurse or doctor in the facility has the power to force it via injection or orally – all in the ‘best interests’ of the patient.63There is currently no independent body that authorises the use of forced medication, providing a necessary element of accountability over a process that could easily be abused.
6.The Reality of Forced Treatment in Australia
In theory, and according to the law, forensic mental health facilities (such as Long Bay Forensic Hospital) provide for the care, treatment and control of persons who are classified as mentally ill or mentally disordered within the prison system. These facilities are intended to provide treatment to patients, while also protecting their civil rights and allowing them to have access to appropriate care.
There is, however, a fundamental discrepancy between the way the system should operate, and the way it functions in practice. Traditionally, patients rely on beneficial care and advice provided by health practitioners, but this is constantly being subverted in a system where treatment decisions are not made by informed and consenting patients but by the whims of the state.
Unlike people in prisons, patients in forensic mental health facilities can be forced into involuntary treatment programs indefinitely. Human dignity is inherent in all people, and this dignity does not diminish when it resides in those who are mentally ill and disabled.
However, mental health patients are often condemned to a world where their fundamental rights as human beings are forfeited, and they live at the mercy
It is evident that patients are often dehumanised in the course of their treatment: visitors are discouraged and sometimes refused entry, and social support
is often seen as an unwanted disturbance rather than a constructive community right.
Forced medication is a regular form of ‘treatment’ for many such patients who are prejudicially assumed to be incapable of making any rational decisions.
Saeed Dezfouli, a non-violent forensic patient in Long Bay Forensic Hospital, is one such person. Saeed has been held indefinitely at the forensic hospital
in Long Bay Jail since 2002, and is forced to take anti-psychotic medication on a fortnightly basis. Teams of doctors and nurses often have to physically
restrain him, hold him face down and forcibly inject him. The use of forced injections, which would be considered battery in any other circumstance, is an
unequivocal breach of Saeed’s individual right to control of his body. Under the justification that he is incapable of making rational decisions, he has been
given no opportunity to make decisions or question his treatment plan without running the risk of his opposition being used as evidence of his mental illness.
Any sign of resistance has been used to mark him as non-compliant. In turn, this has been used as a justification to keep him incarcerated longer.
The unfortunate reality is that health professionals and doctors are de-sensitised to the plight of their patients, with a focus on financial and other outcomesinstead of patient wellbeing. In addition, health professionals in forensic facilities must not forget that the prescription of medication to a person should meet the health needs of the person and should be given only for therapeutic or diagnostic needs. It should not be given as punishment or for the convenience of others as it is in Saeed’s case. Saeed’s experience demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the Mental Health Review Tribunal and Supreme Court in providing a supposed avenue of appeal for involuntary patients.
This abuse of individual rights is highlighted by the extreme case of Michael Riley. Despite the fact that Michael has never been charged for an offence and does not have a record of violent behaviour, he has been in and out of mental hospitals as an involuntary patient for the last twelve years. During this time, he has been subjected to a whole host of involuntary treatment plans.
It is one thing to arbitrarily restrict individuals’ autonomy because they might be dangerous to society; it is another thing entirely to take the last thing that matters to them after liberty – the control of their very body. Patients like Michael are trapped in a system where, by virtue of their mental disorder, they have been coerced into ‘choosing’ a specific treatment plan. This may consist of sedatives to make them more compliant, or being taken to hospital where the treatment plan is forced upon them. Michael has consistently been assessed as not being a danger to either himself or others, but due to his condition, he has been pre-emptively locked up. Unsurprisingly, this flagrant abuse of his rights feeds into the patient’s existing sense of paranoia and distrust of the system, which further complicates recovery efforts.
Forced medication, which is trauma informed, is at odds with the principles of recovery-focused person-centred care. Forced medication reinforces the trauma of the high proportion of mental health consumers who have a past history of being abused.
The reality for many patients in forensic mental health facilities in NSW is that, if they accept psychiatric treatment, they are deemed to have the ‘capacity’ and will be admitted to a voluntary treatment program. However, if the patient is opposed to the treatment, they are subjected to a longer incarceration and involuntary treatment. Ultimately, this creates a situation where patients are only given the illusion of choice, which is at best coercive and at worst non-existent.
6.1 The Practice of Sedation
The practice of sedation of involuntary patients, particularly in NSW, highlights the abuse of rights and lack of respect shown to some of the most
vulnerable members of society. Almost all forensic patients in and out of institutions are medicated against their will. It should be noted, however,
that research has shown that psychosis symptoms are best treated with psychological therapy and medication should only be used alongside
The NSW Health Policy Directive gives guidance to the sedation practices and clearly outlines the circumstances in which sedation may be used
on a patient. The Policy Directive states that these ‘chemical restraints’ can only be used in ‘extreme circumstances when other forms of
IV sedation that does not comply with this Policy Directive may be considered assault.
The Policy Directive also gives direction in relation to restraint in psychiatric in-patient facilities.
Again, ‘restraint should only be applied for the minimum time necessary and its application must take into account the principle of care in the
However, when read in conjunction with the Mental Health Act (NSW), the safeguards that protect patients can be easily abused.
When patients are held down and injected with a syringe, which functionally knocks them out, this should be classified as an IV sedation,
and thus governed by the directives which states sedation should only be used in ‘extreme circumstances’. However, the legislation has
given treating doctors the ability to hide behind the notion of ‘treatment’. If a patient complains that they are being sedated without justification, the
treating doctor merely classifies the injection as ‘treatment’ and therefore is not bound by the Policy Directive. Thus the NSW Health system does
not adequately protect the patient’s rights. Power is placed in the hands of the treating doctor. Even with restrictions on sedation, the doctor has
ultimate discretion in the treatment of the patient.
Criminal charges of assault can be laid for breaches of the Policy Directive and should act as a deterrence to abusive doctors. The problem arises
from the difficulty in separating ‘sedation’ from ‘treatment’. The NSW health system needs to update its guiding principles of patient care and
remove the ability of doctors to abuse the authority they wield over mental health patients. As well as collecting episodes of seclusion, the NSW health
6.2 6.2 Discriminatory Nature of Forced Treatment
‘The delivery of a non-discriminative, autonomy-based legal framework for all treatment has been the goal of many reformers’.
It has increasingly been recognised that ‘wherever possible the principles governing mental health care should be the same as those governing
Reviews have demonstrated that legislation governing involuntary patients demonstrates a lower degree of respect and patient autonomy than is afforded
The differential treatment of involuntary patients should require further justification than merely their ‘involuntary status’. It has been found that the
increased risk arising from mental disorders is low in comparison to other factors such as age, gender, socio-economic status, drug or alcohol usage,
civil and human rights. The right to autonomy may be impeded for a number of reasons such as ‘intense pain, anxiety, temporary lapses in consciousness,
Undeniably there may be more patients with a mental disorder who are impeded in their decision-making by the underlying disorder than those suffering
Furthermore, the assumed inability to make a ‘correct’ decision for mental health patients about treatment is not in line with other social standards.
Courts in the United States have recognised that individual autonomy in treatment decisions extends ‘equally to mentally ill persons who are not to be
from patients, purely because of their involuntary confinement status, is in fact discriminatory.
7. Opposition to Involuntary Treatment
So, what are the normative justifications for involuntary treatment that go beyond the principles of state intervention? The three justifications for involuntary
treatment often provided are:
2.That the individual lacks competency in making rational decisions about their treatment plans; and
3.That there is a necessity to treat an individual’s illness.
In our view, the only valid justification is the first; that involuntary treatment is only ever justified in preventing immediate and tangible harm to
others or the self. Thus, when a patient is a clear danger to themselves or other individuals, the use of medical practitioner discretion to apply
involuntary medication to calm and treat the patient is supported.
However, with respect to the second and third justifications, there are significant principled and practical problems. The theoretical rationalisation
is that the individual, by virtue of having a mental disorder, is unable to consent to treatment that would ultimately be in their best interest. Thus the
government has the right to suspend their autonomy and forcibly treat them for their own good. This argument makes sense when the individual is a
threat to others or themselves in a direct and clear manner. These situations provide a mandate for the state to take some form of evasive action to
avoid greater harm. However, it is unsustainable in many other cases. The reality is that not all mental disorders are equal, and they do not affect
individuals in the same way. Mild bipolar disorder is not equivalent to paranoid schizophrenia. Nor is it the reality that a weakened ability to make
rational choices is equivalent to no capacity for choice by the patient. Hence, children in
palliative care are given limited control over pain medication and treatment plans despite the state’s view that they are not competent to vote or make
independent Do-Not-Resuscitate orders. The ability of mental health patients to make this choice is particularly important given the nature of the
medication which, despite their proven benefits, also have serious proven side effects.
We therefore reject the idea that a mental disorder completely removes the individual’s agency or capability to make valid decisions. The erroneous
Research has shown that mental illness does not make a person incompetent to make decisions about their treatment. The MacArthur Treatment
Competence Study has shown that, in relation to the ability to make treatment decisions, there is little difference between those with a mental illness
and therefore to be given the right to refuse or consent to treatment. Furthermore, the use of advance directives demonstrates the absurdity of the current
policy; if medication can be used to stabilise a patient and to make them more capable of interaction, why can they not then issue an advance directive
in their supposedly more stable state, when they are better equipped mentally at assessing the relative value of their treatment plan?
The absurdity of patients being denied the ability to choose their own medication is demonstrated by the use of the anti-psychotic medication Clozapine.
Clozapine is very effective anti-schizophrenia medication, but also results in a wide variety of side effects ranging from weight gain, drooling, constipation,
resulting in greater vulnerability to infections, with potentially fatal effects.
patients to sign a consent form waiving the liability of the hospital for any physical or mental detrimental consequences arising from the treatment.
This then begs the question of how patients, apparently not rational enough to choose their own treatment plan, are considered competent enough
noted that, due to the other medications they were forcibly treated with, they had no idea what they were signing or its significance. Those who were reluctant to
sign and be treated with Clozapine were threatened with indefinite detention in the forensic hospital.
Some jurisdictions justify compulsory treatment on the notion of treating that which is ‘dangerous’. It could be argued that ‘dangerous’ could be seen as a weaker
requirement, merely permitting the state to interfere as opposed to an obligation to interfere. Although both standards are used in different jurisdictions, changes in
is a lack of security and minimal safeguards of the rights of the patient. When determining whether patients have the capacity to decide on their own treatment plan,
those involved must examine the specific context of each situation. Appelbaum found that, out of the mere 10% of inpatients who refused treatment, most did so
We also note that the therapeutic benefits of involuntary medication are questionable. According to Dr Penny Weller, involuntary treatments can ‘mask, rather than
At other times, they have disabling side effects that mimic symptoms of mental illnesses, which lead to interpretations by medical officers that patients’ behaviours
reflect escalations of mental illness.
These findings are complemented by other studies done in this field. In the Cochrane review entitled ‘Compulsory Community and Involuntary Outpatient
Treatment for People with Severe Mental Disorders,’ it was revealed that there is little evidence that community treatmentorders are effective for competent
health care. That study concluded that, statistically, it takes 85 community treatment orders to prevent one re-admission, 27 to prevent one case of
for mental health patients. It also indicates a clear waste of public expenditure in mental health treatment. Instead, such funding could be used to
promote effective mental health care in accordance with fundamental human freedoms, such as treatment with free and informed consent.
Ultimately the trade off of benefits against side effects is a decision that must be left to the individual.
They alone are qualified to assess the comparative benefits and detriments of the medication as it affects them. The problem with the status quo is
that it goes too far in assuming that a mental disorder gives the state a blank cheque to disregard the choices of patients. With the exception of those
who are a clear threat to themselves and those around them, there is no part of social contract theory which suggests that a surrender of one’s own agency
and autonomy is justified by notions of either empowering individuals or utilitarian notions of the greater good.
The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum has taken a similar stance in calling for an end to seclusion and restraint (for further reference please
see Appendix B or http://tinyurl.com/audbspa).
- 8. Alternatives to Forced Treatment and their Therapeutic Benefits
There has been a push for involuntarily detained persons with a mental illness to be assumed competent unless proved otherwise. They should be
given the right to refuse or consent to
treatment. Just as the legal system assumes innocent unless proven guilty, so too should the burden of proof favour the presumption that involuntary
patients are competent unless proven otherwise. Patients are the suitable party to make evaluations on both the effectiveness and side effects of the
medications, and independent groups such as the Consumer Organising Committee of the Mental Health Services Conference 2000 (COCMHS) have
In order to review a patient’s capacity in the specific context in which it occurs, a medical practitioner independent of the treating team should be required
to assess the patient and provide an opinion of patients capability of being involved in decisions that affect them.
Giving patients the ability to refuse treatment is seen by some as therapeutic as it recognises the right of the patient to privacy, competency and autonomy.
Giving patients the right to refuse treatment has also been seen to encourage practitioners to communicate more effectively with patients and to be more
Allan argues that ‘there is evidence that practitioners take more care when the medication they recommend is appropriate, [when they] monitor its effects
Ignoring a patient’s right to refuse treatment can entrench a sense of resentment with authority that impedes future rehabilitation and recovery.
Greater transparency in the treatment process contributes to the overall recovery of the patient. As psychiatric medication is often accompanied
by severe side effects and can be highly invasive, allowing patients to make treatment decisions utilises a patient’s ability to understand themselves
Consensual treatment is the ideal form of therapeutic care. Allowing patients to make decisions enhances the psychiatrist-patient relationship and patients
gain greater trust and confidence in the treating psychiatrist. It increases motivation for rehabilitation as patients are said to respond better to treatment
When determining whether patients have the capacity to decide on their own treatment plan, each patient must have his or her specific context and situation
analysed by those involved.
To address the infringements upon human rights associated with involuntary treatment plans, mental healthcare authorities should provide voluntary
alternatives that act as either:
- a) an intervention program before involuntary treatment, and/or
- b) allows patients access to their rights, including medication, beds, meals etc.
8.1 Alternative Proposals from Patients
Patients who have been subjected to forced medications have suggested some alternatives as a way of avoiding the impacts of forced medication
on mental health patients. These include:
1. Refuge where patients are serviced and kept privately and safe in a non-judgmental environment;
2. Access to a trusted organisation or person whom they nominate in advance so that when they suffer a period of mental illness they
have agreed support;
3. A nominated primary carer, with the legal power to intervene when necessary;
4. An Advance Directive, which is a document that sets out what patients want to happen if they are deemed incapable of making decisions
in the future. It can include what treatment is to be given and whether particular drugs should be given. Advance Directives are not yet recognised by legislation.
This means that the Advance Directives of involuntary patients may be overridden in favour of the Mental Health Act. A Court would therefore be unlikely
to overturn any decisions made by the hospital for the patient’s treatment and care.
Further the COCMHC 2000 noted the lack of available information on prescribed medications and their side-effects as a barrier to patients making informed
- Consumer advocates at point of prescription;
- 2.More focus on therapies which involve discussing issues and information about alternative therapies with patients;
- 3.Information and explanation provided to patients about side-effects which may occur every time a prescription is administered. Consumers/patients can
- be advised to ask certain key questions of their clinicians;
- 4.Doctors to be made more aware of drug reactions and interactions – a checkbox scale tool can be used to gauge patients’ quality of life following medication; and
- 5.Consumers can unite and raise awareness of medical prescription issues through online communication.
It is essential to look at these alternatives from the perspectives of patients themselves; their suggestions are vital to ending forced treatment.
means of mental health treatment while patients feel that they are not offered alternatives to medication. This gap is caused by the lack of patient
and carer participation in the planning, implementation and evaluation of mental health services. What is required is greater attention to the patient
voice as an essential means of resolving issues in our current system.
The options mentioned above would create an environment in which patients’ rights are prioritised.
These alternatives would provide a chance for people with a mental illness to choose their treatment and provide a step between being uncared for and
Ultimately, giving patients the right to choose is beneficial for their state of mind and allows them to assume control over their lives.
The evidence documented in this report has been obvious to insiders for some time, but there has been no focus or levers to force changes in the
culture and practices. The status of those controlling the industry has been above challenge despite the facts. The significant literature of
while the practices continue.
Recently, as a response to the upcoming publication of the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the British Psychological
Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) issued a statement expressing its concern for psychiatrists’ over-reliance on the biomedical model of
He asserts that the weak methodology of DSM-V trivialises mental health orders and will lead to unnecessary diagnoses and over-medication. This is a
bonus for the pharmaceutical industry but a huge cost to people caught in the excessive model. Essentially, according to Frances, the DSM-V model is a
reckless course that will ultimately result in mislabelling potentially millions of people with unsupported mental disorders.
The significant role organisations play in advancing the status of mental health must not be ignored, despite their dependency on Health funding.
The NSW Consumer Advisory Group Mental Health Inc has continued to monitor the responsibility of State governments to uphold the standard of care
set out in the United Nation’s Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care. Notably, the
Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) and the Mental Health Coordinating Council (MHCC) continue to advocate on behalf of mental health
patients and facilitate their empowerment.
consists of research, including survey results from the women themselves, that highlights the need for a stronger support network for women in the mental
health care system and a zero tolerance towards instances of sexual assault.
Although it is based in Victoria, the VMIAC does not limit its efforts to its own state, with reports submitted to federal government bodies such as the
Department of Human Services, participation in national mental health committees and forums, as well as contributions towards academic journals.
through submissions, and empowerment of the mental health community by training, research and advocacy.
These organisations are valuable in that they provide a well-organised voice for those who suffer due to injustice in the mental health system.
They have enough support, funding and public recognition to be able to bring to light issues surrounding mental health that would otherwise be ignored.
9.1 National Recovery Framework in Australia
Currently the dominance of the medical model and the discretionary powers within it are overwhelming. However the recovery paradigm for mental
health has now been officially accepted by the Australian government. It offers an alternative to the medical model, providing the individual with the
opportunity to take control over their lives.
Recovery is the ability for people with a mental illness to restore their social functioning by reducing the severity of symptoms experienced, while also
allows the individual to define and determine the extent to which mental illness will impact upon their daily lives. This is a major shift from previous ideas on
how to address mental illness at a social level as it shifts the power and authority from the mental health professionals and institutions, back to the consumers.
The recovery-oriented framework, as developed and implemented by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) and the Coalition of Australian
Governments (COAG), is a new way of viewing the issue in Australia, allowing the people who live with the illness to define and determine how the illness will
be treated and managed.
The AHMAC launched a national recovery-oriented framework as a part of fulfilling Priority 1 of the Fourth National Mental Health Plan 2009-14: Social Inclusion
AHMAC hopes to provide support to people with a mental illness to live and participate in the community and break down the barriers which lead to this
group of people being socially excluded.
Such reforms have been growing internationally over recent decades. For example, the closure of Trieste’s psychiatric hospital and the “development of an
integrated network of community services designed to meet health and social needs of the severely mentally ill (p. 7)” was the landmark shift towards a
recovery-oriented approach to mental health in Italy and similar approaches were adopted throughout the country. Scotland and New Zealand have also
a form of recovery that would “empower consumers, assure their rights, get the best outcomes, and increase their control over their mental health and
With the re-oriented view of the individual possessing the knowledge and strength required for recovery, mental health service providers will be required
to deliver their services in a way that reduces the risk of people falling through the gaps by adapting services to the needs of consumers rather than
limiting the consumer’s wellbeing as a result of accessing services that are either inappropriate or only partially meet the consumer’s needs. This is
will be ensured by providing “evidence-informed treatment, therapy, rehabilitation and psychosocial support [and] work[ing] in partnership with consumer
A recovery-oriented framework will force service providers to reconsider the weight that is placed on medication to ensure ‘recovery’ of people with mental
illness. The AHMAC’s main comment on the place of medication in the framework is that it needs to be viewed as “one potential recovery support
The possibilities of this framework to change the entire mental health field is staggering. It is a positive development to acknowledging the rights and
experiences of people with a mental illness as well as reducing the reliance on medication and isolation by health services. By giving power back to
the consumers of mental health, Australia is taking steps towards creating an effective and inclusive mental health industry.
Mental health is an area where the uniqueness of human beings should be celebrated and protected. The opposite has occurred in practice, with daily
brutal attacks on the integrity of vulnerable fellow citizens, degrading ourselves and our civilisation in the process.
Saeed Dezfouli and Michael Riley are just two of the many consumers subjected to this abuse, who have contacted Justice Action asking for assistance,
with nowhere else to turn for support.
The principle of the National Disability Insurance Scheme with consumers choosing their support providers, provides a recognition of the problem and its solution.
We recommend it should have the power to oversee policies and give direction to mental health services.
NMHCCF Advocacy Brief
Issue: Seclusion and Restraint in Mental Health Services
Seclusion is the confinement of the consumer at any time of the day or night alone in a room or area from which free exit is prevented.
There are three distinct types of restraint – physical (e.g. manual, handcuffs, harnesses, straps), chemical (e.g. sedative medication) and emotional (e.g. fear
of expressing views, coercion, threats).
The key factor that differentiates seclusion and restraint from other forms of care or medical treatment is intent. Seclusion and restraint are often used to restrict
the movement or behaviour of a person because of a failure to provide proper mental health care. Seclusion and restraint are being used on a daily basis, despite
evidence that they can contribute to negative health outcomes.
In the NMHCCF position statement ‘Ending Seclusion and Restraint in Australian Mental Health Services,’ Professor Ian Hickie notes, ‘The frequent requirement
to seclude and restrain people with an acute mental illness highlights the ongoing failure of the mental health system to provide high quality care’.
While protection from harm may be one reason for implementing measures to restrain someone, there are clinical, ethical and legal issues which practitioners
must consider before restraining a patient:
- Impact of physical restraint on a patient and their family/carer;
- Consumers’ rights and autonomy;
- Myths and misconceptions about the use of restraints;
- Ethical aspects of restraining people;
- Legal and legislative aspects of restraint use and restraint minimisation;
- Dangers involved in the use of physical restraints resulting in adverse outcomes; and
- Considering alternatives to restraint.
Unless alternative locations for care and services are established, people requiring mental health care will be forced to attend psychiatric units which
are notorious for their use of seclusion and restraint - not as a measure of last resort, but as the default means of keeping order.
Prepared by National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum May 2012
A combined national voice for mental health consumers and carers
Key Points for Mental Health Consumers and Carers
The NMHCCF released its position statement ‘Ending Seclusion and Restraint in Australian Mental Health Services’ in September 2010.
It is available at www.nmhccf.org.au/Publications-info.
It is the position of the NMHCCF that involuntary seclusion and restraint is:
- Currently used at unacceptably high levels in mental health services;
- An avoidable and preventable practice;
- Highlighting a failure in care and treatment when they are used;
- Commonly associated with human rights abuse;
- Not an evidence-based therapeutic intervention;
- A cause of short and long term emotional damage to consumers and/or their family/carer;
- An inhibitor of developing trust and respect between consumers, carers and clinical staff;
The trauma of seclusion and restraint contributes to consumers’ fear of treatments and they are much less likely to seek help again if subjected to
seclusion and/or restraint. Similarly families and/or carers may feel reluctant to seek treatment for a consumer.
Attracting and maintaining a dedicated mental health workforce will be hindered if the care provided continues to be associated with patient harm
rather than positive health outcomes.
In under-resourced and inappropriate mental health services, seclusion and restraint are the accepted practices. This is totally unacceptable and
there are alternatives available for the safe management of dangerous behaviours.
Recommendations for Change and Key Issues for the Future
The NMHCCF has identified six key strategies to end seclusion and restraint in Australian mental health services:
- 1.Better Accountability
- 2.Implementation of Evidence Based Approaches to Ending Seclusion and Restraint
- 3.Adherence to Standards and Public Reporting
- 4.Support for Mental Health Professionals Towards Cultural and Clinical Practice Change
- 5.Better Care Planning
- 6.Review Relevant Mental Health Legislation
Name of Nominated NMHCCF contacts on this issue
Allison Kokany and Isabell Collins
Please contact NMHCCF Secretariat (details below)
Prepared by National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum May 2012
A combined national voice for mental health consumers and carers
12.1 Domestic Legislation
Criminal Code (Cth)
Criminal Laws Consolidation Act 1935 (SA)
Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic)
Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) Crimes Act 1900 (ACT)
Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT)
Mental Health Act 1996(TAS)
Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990 (NSW)
Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities 2007 (Vic)
12.2 International Treaties
The CPT Standards, Chapter Vl, para.41 at http://www.cpt.coe.int/en/docsstandards.htm
European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) cited in Lewis, O., Thoronld, O & Bertlett, P ‘The European convention on Human Rights and the
rights of people with mental health problems and/or intellectual dis-abilities’ (2003) Mental Disability Advocacy Centre
International Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
International Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Bensaid v United Kingdom  ECHR 82 Flemmings v Reid  D.L.R 298 Herczegfalvy v Austria (1993) 15 EHRR 437 Lessard v Schmidt,
414 US 473 (1974) M’Naghten Rules (1843) 10 CL & Fin 200 (NSW)
Rennie v Klein 462 F. Supp 1131 (D.N.J 1978); Rodgers v Okin River v Katz (1986) 67 NY 2d 485
Rodgers v Okin 478 F. Supp 1342 (D Mass 1978)
Secretary Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB (1992) 175 CLR 218
Allan, A (2003) ‘The Past, Present and Future of Mental Health Law: a Therapeutic Jurisprudence Analysis.’ Law in Context 20
Appelbaum, P (1997) Almost a revolution, Oxford University Press cited in Radden, J, above n 100, 5. Bracken, Pat et al., Psychiatry
beyond the current paradigm (BJPsych, 2012)
Carney, T, Tait, D, & Beaupert, F ‘Pushing the Boundaries: Realising Rights Through Mental Health Tribunal’ (2008) Sydney Law Review 30(2)
Donelly, M ‘From Autonomy to Dignity: Treatment for Mental Disorders and the Focus for Patient Rights’ (2008) 26(2) Law in Context 37
Fischer, J ‘A Comparative Look at the Rights to refuse treatment for involuntary Hospitalized Persons with a Mental Illness’, 29 Hastings International
and Comparative Law Review 153 (2005)
Justice Action, The OUR PICK Report, July 2010
Kisely SR, Campbell LA, Preston NJ (2011) ‘Compulsory community and involuntary outpatient treatment for people with severe mental disorders.’
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 2.
Knox, Malcolm, ‘The Big Sleep’ Good Weekend (Sydney), April 13 2013, 31
Langford, L ‘The New Mental Health Act in Tasmania (1996): A comparative Review with the Former Act (1963): Can They Now Die with
Their Rights on?’ (2003) Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 1 August 10(1) 140-143.
Matthews, E (1999) ‘Mental and Psychical Illness: An Unsustainable Separation?’ in N Eastman and J Peay (eds), Law Without Enforcement:
Integrating Mental Health and Justice Oxford: Hart Publishing cited in Donelly, M, above n 8
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Psychosis and Substance Abuse, National Drug and Research Centre 2011
Not For Service: Experiences of Injustice and Despair in Mental Health Care in Australia, (2005) Mental Health Council of Australia and the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Paul, S and Appelbaum P & Grisso, T ‘The MacArthur Treatment Competence Study: I. Mental Illness and Competence to Consent to Treatment,’
19 (1995) L & Hum. Behav. 105 in Fischer, J ‘A Comparative Look at the Rights to refuse treatment for involuntary Hospitalized Persons with a
Mental Illness’, 29 Hastings International and Comparative Law Review 153 (2005)
Pitcher, S (2000) ‘The Most Important Issues Affecting People with a Mental Illness or Disorder,’ The Mental Health Services Consumer Forum, Adelaide
Radden, J ‘Forced Medication, Patients’ Rights and Value Conflicts’ (2003) Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 10
Weller, P (2010) ‘Developing Law and Ethics: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, 35 Alternative Law Journal 1, 2
Williams, R (2011) ‘How the drug companies control our lives- Part 1,’ Wired For Success, May 13 2011
Dudley, Michael, Derrick Silove, and Fran Gale (eds), Mental Health and Human Rights: Vision, praxis, and courage (Oxford University Press, 2012), ch 16
Whitaker, Robert, Mad in America (Basic Books, revised ed, 2010)
12.6 Government Reports and Directives
Committee for the Prevention of Torture ‘VI. Involuntary placement in psychiatric establishments’ Extract from the 8 General Report [CPT/Inf (98)12]’ 2002
NSW Health ‘Policy Directive: Seclusion Practices in Psychiatric Facilities’ (2007) PD2007_054 at http:// www.health.nsw.gov.au/policies/a-z/s.asp, 17
NSW Ministry of Health (2012), ‘Policy Directive: Clozapine Induce Myocarditis-Monitoring Protocol,’ Clinical Patient Services, document no. PD2012_005
The Richardson Report (1999) Review of the Mental Health Act 1983: Report of the Expert Committee London: Department of Health cited in Donelly, M, above n 110.
 See Roberts, Andrews, Mental Health History Timeline (1981 – 2013) <http://studymore.org.uk/mhhtim.htm>;.
Psychotherapy and Psychomatics 267
of Injustice and Despair in Mental Health Care in Australia (Research Report, Mental Health Council of Australia, 2005)
1976, except for art 41, which entered into force on 28 March 1979); International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opened for signature 16
December 1966, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 January1976); Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, opened for signature 13 December 2006,
2515 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 May 2008); and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, opened for
signature 10 December 1984, 1465 UNTS 85 (entered into force 26 June 1987)
except for art 41, which entered into force on 28 March 1979); International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opened for signature 16 December
1966, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 January1976); Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, opened for signature 13 December 2006, 2515 UNTS 3
(entered into force 3 May 2008); and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, opened for signature
10 December 1984, 1465 UNTS 85 (entered into force 26 June 1987)
 Wikipedia, ‘William Tuke’, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tuke>;.
Journal of Psychiatry 1128
Malcolm Knox, ‘The Big Sleep’, Sydney Morning Herald (online), 13 April 2013 <http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/the-big-sleep-20130408-2hfq6.html>
 Maurice Rappaport, ‘Are there schizophrenics for whom drugs may be unnecessary or contraindicated?’ International Pharmacopsychiatry, 13 (1978), 100-111
Tardive Dyskinesia in Patients Treated with Major Neuroleptics. Crane, G. American Journal of Psychiatry 124, supplement (1968):40-47
See website: http://breggin.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&;Itemid=1
The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 142
Carl Blumenthal, Mad in America: So What Else is New? (2002, New York City Voices <http://www.nycvoices.org/ article_554.php>
Baker, Richard, ‘Mental Health takes industry pills,’ The Age, August 8 2006 <http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/mental-health-takes-industry-pills/2006/08/07/1154802820416.html?page=fullpage>
in Wired for Success, published May 14, 2011 <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201105/how-the-drug-companies-control-our-lives-part-2-0>;
 Natasha Bita, ‘Pharmaceutical companies spend $30m wining, dining doctors’, The Australian, August 10, 2012
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(entered into force 3September 1953) art 3
Rights and the Rights of People with Mental Health Problems and/or Developmental Disabilities (2003) Mental Disability Advocacy Center <http://www.mdac.info/en/documents/ECHR_training_pack_-_English_2nd_edition.doc>
on the CPT’s Activities Covering the Period 1 January to 31 December 1997’ (Annual Report, Council of Europe, 31 August, 1998) 
29 Hastings International Comparative Law Review 153, 158
March 1976, except for art 41, which entered into force on 28 March 1979); International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opened for
signature 16 December 1966, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 January 1976); Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, opened for signature
13 December 2006, 2515 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 May 2008); and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and
Punishment, opened for signature 10 December 1984, 1465 UNTS 85 (entered into force 26 June 1987)
with Their Rights on?’ (2003) 10(1) Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 140
The definition of “mental illness” in NSW is derived from M’Naghten’s Case (1843) 10 CL & Fin 200. It must be clearly proved that, at the time of
committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as to not know the nature and quality of the act
he was doing, or, if he did know it, he did not know what he was doing was wrong. In all other jurisdictions, the definition is provided in their respective statutes”;
Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 7.3; Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) s 27; Criminal Laws Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) s 269(c);Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas) s 16;
Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 (Vic) s 27; Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) s 28; Criminal Code (NT) s 35
< http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/ default/files/ndarc/resources/NDARC_PYCHOSIS_FINAL.pdf>
Law Without Enforcement: Integrating Mental Health and Justice (Oxford University Press, 1999) 47, 59 cited in Donnelly, aboven 110, 9.
(1995) 19(2) Law and Human Behavior 105
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Canberra. Australia. pp. 1
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