Home LATEST NEWS HEALTH Forced hospitalization of psychiatric patients contested in B.C.

Forced hospitalization of psychiatric patients contested in B.C.


The Supreme Court of Canada has granted the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) the right, on behalf of involuntary patients, to bring a constitutional challenge against the Mental Health Act (Mental Health Act).

Decision ends BC government’s campaign to keep case out of courtsays Kevin Love, one of the lawyers representing the organization. This puts us back exactly where we started.

In 2016, the CCDs and two people who received treatment without consent took legal action, but in 2017 the patients withdrew for personal reasons.

The organization then pursued the lawsuit on its own, which the province disputed until, on June 23, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the CCDs to the standing to act in the public interest.

According to CCDsBritish Columbia’s Mental Health Act violates the right to equality, enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter, as well as section 7, which guarantees the right to liberty and security of his person.

Internment and processing without consent

The challenged law allows doctors to detain without their consent people who suffer from serious psychiatric problems, if they present a risk to their own well-being or that of others, or if the detainment is necessary to prevent their state of health does not deteriorate. These people are then presumed to consent to the treatments given to them.

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It is the only province that presumes that someone who is involuntarily admitted is incapable of making decisions related to their treatment.explains Kevin Love.

Also, for people who are unable to make decisions on their own or who need help to do so, [la loi] allows them to impose treatment without allowing them to get help from a representative, a family member, or someone they trustadds the lawyer.

British Columbia is the latest province to cling to this outdated system, and that is why the government is being called upon to change these laws. »

A quote from Kevin Love, lawyer

In Quebec, for example, although it is also possible, following a different process, to admit someone against their will to a psychiatric establishment, you need the authorization of the Court to then impose treatment on them, which is not the case in British Columbia.

An administrative court, the Mental Health Review Board, can review and overrule doctors’ decisions, but only if the patient or someone speaking on their behalf requests it. This commission has the obligation to hear the request within 14 days of its receipt, during which time the forced hospitalization can continue.

A law discriminatory

According to the president of CCDsBritish Columbia law discriminates against people with mental health problems, since it treats them differently from others, who always have the option of withdrawing their consent for treatment.

It is a loss of the right to consent to medical treatmentsays Heather Walkus. So all the drugs we want to administer to them, the electroshock treatments, the isolation […]all these things that have value for people, they have no right to accept or refuse them, and no one around them can consent in their place.

The president of CCDs would like the organization not to have to pursue the dispute in court.

Rather than having to challenge the Mental Health Act in court, we hope the government will tell us that they want to sit down with us to work out the changes that need to be made, says Heather Walkus. Going to court should be the last resort.

The government, called upon to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and the intentions of the CCDssays he is unable to do so because the case is still before the courts.

With information from Catherine Dib

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