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New mental health powers threaten rights, claim lawyers

Nina Lakhani
London Independent [1]
Monday, Sept 29, 2008

Lawyers are lining up to challenge the legality of the new Mental Health Act as fears about the imminent new powers grow among patients.

The legislation was passed in July amid controversy after seven years of opposition from a coalition of 75 organisations.

The new law introduces a much wider definition of mental disorder which could see people with an “untreatable” personality disorder sectioned and brought into hospital.

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Nurses, occupational therapists and social workers will be given new powers previously reserved for doctors. Patients detained in care homes could be forced to pay for treatment they do not want.

A campaign by this newspaper helped to ensure that a number of safeguards was written into the new Act. But at least five key aspects of the controversial Act could breach human rights law, meaning the Government would be forced to revisit the legislation as early as 2013, according to the Law Society.

It said there had been widespread calls to follow the example of the 2003 Scottish Act, which complies with the European Convention on Human Rights, but these had been dismissed.

Full article here [1]