The Rights of People with Mental Health Problems in the Community
Changes in psychiatric practices, and in the position of the mental hospital, do not of course take place in a vacuum. They affect everyone and every part of the system. When patients are no longer treated in mental hospitals — or rather spend less time there than before — and are treated in the community, wholesale changes and adjustments have to be made. One such adjustment concerns patients’ rights, whether of their rights whilst receiving community treatment, or their right to be free of that treatment. This is not an area which is well-documented — indeed the question of patients’ rights generally or even of rights in hospital has been left largely unexplored. Yet we think this is an important area and one which will assume increasing importance as community care develops, irrespective of the form that care may take. Societies which opt for a community-care approach promote new questions about patients’ rights. And as we will show throughout this chapter they are questions which have few answers as yet.
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