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Buckley welcomes move to resolve constitutional issue for mental health patients

16 May, 2018 - by Pat Buckley TD

Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has welcomed the decision of the Seanad to support his amendment to resolve the constitutional issue which arose out of the AB v Clinical Director of St Loman's Hospital case earlier case this month.

The ruling from the Court of Appeal determined that the ability to extend detention of an involuntary patient in a mental health unit for 12 months without review was a violation of their rights. The amendment submitted to the Mental Health (Amendment) Act 2001 by Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile on Deputy Buckley’s behalf reduced this maximum period to 6 months in line with good practice.

Deputy Buckley said;

“The issue of these extended periods of detention was raised by the Expert Review of the Mental Health Act in 2015 and highlighted by Mental Health Reform also. This should have been dealt with already, but the Court of Appeal ruling which delayed striking the section of the Act unconstitutional for 6 months has added a need for immediate action. Patients’ constitutional rights to have access to a review and appeal of their detention were being denied for an unacceptable period of time.

“Patients deserve to have a right to a review and appeal of their detention. To state that a patient must be detained for 12 months without review is akin to an admission of defeat, especially when we are seeking to move in line with A Vision for Change to a community and recovery based model. Of course, some patients will need acute and even extended hospital care but this must be done with great care for the rights of the patient and always with the view to discharge and continued care and recovery in an outpatient setting.

“The ruling by the Court of Appeal was delayed for 6 months in order that the Oireachtas could act to rectify the problem but given we face a summer recess and the government does not have a majority it was very important that we act quickly. The risk of not dealing with the problem before the 6 months elapsed could result in dozens of patients being discharged without having completed their inpatient treatment.

“I look forward to seeing the full bill pass the next stages of the Seanad and becoming law soon with the cooperation of other parties.” 

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