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Mind matters

Informal admission of patients: Kiran Bhogal examines the human rights implications of Bournewood

10 December 2004

On 5 October 2004, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down judgment in the case of HL v United Kingdom (Application no 45508/99), commonly known as the Bournewood case. It deals with the rights of the informal patient – the compliant but incapacitated individual. In practice, the majority of people who receive in-patient psychiatric care are treated without resort to compulsory powers and are admitted into care as informal patients, either because they have consented to coming into care voluntarily or, not having the legal capacity to consent, do not object to the admission. Section 131 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (the 1983 Act) provides for a patient to enter a hospital for treatment for a mental disorder on an informal basis, or remain in hospital on an informal basis, once authority for their original detention has come to an end. The Mental Health Act Code of Practice 1999 at paras 2.7 and 2.8 states that "compulsory admission powers should ...

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