Are human rights infringed in treatments for mental health?
‘Human rights are legal obligations owed by states and public authorities to everyone. Governments and public authorities must act in a way that respects human rights. Governments must also pass laws to ensure that individuals respect each other’s human rights.’ (The Human Rights Act 1998.) The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the rights found in the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. Are human rights infringed in treatments for mental health? After exploring several different websites, I came across www.livestrong.com. In an article about ethical dilemmas in mental health nursing, it says; ‘Some ethical dilemmas are specific to mental health nursing and are rarely seen in other areas of practice. An involuntary commitment to care, or a decision made by a family member on behalf of the patient, is often made to protect the patient from harming herself or others. The patient might contest this decision. This presents an ethical dilemma because psychiatric patients have the same legal rights as other citizens.’
What are our legal human rights which are relevant to mental health treatment?
Article 2: The right to life.
Article 3: The prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
Article 5: The right to liberty.
Article 6: The right to a fair hearing.
Article 8: The right to a private and family life.
Article 9: The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Article 10: Freedom of expression.
Article 12: The right to marry.
Article 14: The right not to be discriminated against.
Article 1 of protocol 1: The right to property.
Article 2 of protocol 1: The right to education.
Article 3 of protocol 1: The right to vote.
Article 2 protects the right to life. It is now accepted that this article has three core elements:
1) The state must not take a person’s life unless it is absolutely necessary to protect someone from unlawful violence, to prevent someone escaping detention or to stop a riot.
2) The state must protect the lives of its citizens by putting effective systems into place, such as effective policing.
3) The state must protect individuals who are at a real and immediate risk of death.
Article 2 requires the state to protect the right to life, to refrain from intentionally killing anyone and to effectively investigate all deaths caused by the state or occurring in state detention. This includes cases of suicide. It also includes people in prison, in immigration detention, police custody or hospital. Detaining authorities e.g. hospitals, need to ensure that each person has been assessed for risk of self-harm or suicide. (www.mind.org.uk) ‘Ethics are moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.’ (www.google.co.uk/definitions) The term is defined from the Greek word ‘Ethos’, which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition.
When looking on the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk), it says that ‘ethics are a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives.’ There are many different concepts of ethics, and they can stem from things like religion, philosophies and cultures. Philosophers have begun to divide ethical theories into three areas; metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. Metaethics deal with the nature of moral judgement. It looks at the origins and meanings of ethical principles. Normative ethics are concerned with the content of moral judgements and the criteria for what is right and wrong. Applied ethics looks at controversial topics like war, animal rights and capital punishment. If ethical theories are to be useful in practice, they need to affect the way that human beings behave. Ethics derive from many areas of our lives, such as religion, human intuition and political power. www.abouthumanrights.co.uk says that although the Mental Health Act does not give a specific definition, it has