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Teens may now refuse mental-health treatment as consent principle enhanced
Pic: Shutterstock

19 Jul 2021 / legislation Print

Teens can now refuse mental-health treatment

The Government has approved the heads of bill to amend the Mental Health Act, which contain over 120 proposed changes to the act.

The changes introduce guiding principles for adults and children that enhance the voice of those using mental-health services, health minister Stephen Donnelly has said.

The changes will also strengthen provisions for consent to mental-health treatment to bring it in line with the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 and the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2018.

UN obligations

The measures will also integrate Ireland’s international obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

There will be an expansion of the Mental Health Commission’s powers to regulate and inspect all mental-health community residences and services, and to provide for 16- and 17-year olds to refuse or consent to their own mental-health treatment.

“It is an important step in ensuring that the rights of people accessing services are fully vindicated,” said health minister Stephen Donnelly.

Consultation

The heads of bill follow consultation between the Department and key services – including the Mental Health Commission, the HSE, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland – and a recent public consultation.

A 2015 Expert Group Review of the act received 165 recommendations, and there were 100 submissions received in the March/April 2021 public consultation.

Mary Butler (Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People) thanked all those who had engaged with the process, and expressed her gratitude for submissions received from people with lived experience of mental-health services, and their family members.

“These submissions were invaluable to the department in finalising the heads. I plan on publishing a summary report on the public consultation in the coming weeks,” she said.

Following the Government decision to approve the heads of bill, a formal bill will be drafted by the Office of the Attorney General, in consultation with the Department of Health.

The heads will be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, and will also be published on the department’s website this month.

Parity between mental and physical health

Minister Butler added: “The bill will be a significant step in ensuring parity between mental and physical health, in empowering people to make decisions about their own mental-health care, and in enhancing protections and safeguards for people accessing the mental-health services.

“I am committed to seeing the bill drafted as quickly as possible, so it can be introduced to the Oireachtas.”

The Mental Health Act 2001 sets out the care and treatment of people receiving inpatient mental-health care, particularly by providing the legal basis for involuntary detention.

Cabinet agreed on 13 July to send the General Scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland