Earlier this year, the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson released a report entitled “Committed to Change: Protecting the Rights of Patients under the Mental Health Act.” This report outlines a number of recommendations related to the care of involuntary psychiatric care.
BCSS agrees with and supports the first 20 recommendations in the Ombudsperson’s Report. BCSS believes that these recommendations are already being implemented by the B.C. Health Authorities and Ministries.
However, BCSS strongly opposes the recommendation to create an add-on, very expensive system of Rights Advisors with additional powers “for all involuntarily admitted patients that can provide timely, in person advice on the patient’s options based on their particular circumstance.”
BCSS is extremely concerned that large amounts of psychiatrist and other clinicians’ time, now devoted to patient care and treatment will be diverted to “legal rights” issues and away from the “right to health” activities. Psychiatrists’ expertise and time is utterly critical for recovery from schizophrenia in our experience.
BCSS believes that an “independent” rights advice service—especially one run by the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) with its anti-psychiatry views—will divert psychiatrist time in the following areas for the 20,000+ involuntary patients in a year:
- Providing information to the advisor on the patient’s “particular circumstances”
- Many more Review Panels. Also longer preparation and hearing time, as CLAS advocates are more likely to take an adversarial approach.
- More Court hearings for release – direct and habeas corpus. Though not used now, the Ombudsperson stated that they could be. Significant psychiatrist time for each court action
- More lawsuits against psychiatrists or other physicians over allegedly invalid certificates.
BCSS regards this as an urgent issue since the Attorney General has accepted the Ombudsperson recommendation in principle, and it will become law subject to Cabinet approval and funding.