Mental Health Law: Civil Liberties and the Principle of Reciprocity.

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At a conference organised by the Law Society, Mental Health Act Commission, and Institute of Psychiatry possible reform of mental health legislation in England and Wales was discussed.It was concluded that radical legal reform was required, and that the law should be designed specifically for provision of care in both hospital and the community. Reform should be based on principle rather than pragmatism, particularly the principle of reciprocity - patients' civil liberties may not be removed for the purposes of treatment if resources for that treatment are inadequate. Protection of society from nuisance or even violence is insufficient reason for detention. Legal provision for compulsion of patients, whether in hospital or the community, must be matched by specific rights to treatment.

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