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Treatability tests

As the consultation period for the Draft Mental Health Bill ends, David Hewitt questions some assumptions about its most controversial proposal

4 October 2002

Compulsory psychiatric care is currently governed by the 1983 Mental Health Act (MHA). Under s 3 of the MHA, a person may be detained in hospital for psychiatric treatment. However, anyone suffering ‘psychopathic disorder’ or ‘mental impairment’ may be detained (and if already detained, his detention may be renewed) only if treatment “is likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration of his condition” (MHA, s 3(2)(b)). This is the treatability test. It also applies to someone suffering from one of the other two recognised forms of mental disorder – ‘mental illness’ and ‘severe mental impairment’ – but only when his s 3 detention is to be renewed (MHA, s 20(3)(b) and (4)(b)). According to the MHA, ‘medical treatment’ includes “nursing … and care, habilitation and rehabilitation under medical supervision” (s 145(1)). The treatability test imposes other requirements, which, following Roch LJ in R v Canons Park Mental Health Review Tribunal, ex p A [1...

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