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Treating Those Who Are Mentally Disordered Under the Mental Health Act 1983: Part 2

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date06/2011
JournalClinical Ethics
Number of pages4
Original languageEnglish


In this second Five-Minute Focus on Law on mental health, we consider how the law deals with the treatment of those who are mentally disordered. Before doing so, it is important to note that it should not be assumed that a person who is mentally disordered under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983, as amended by the MHA 2007,1 is necessarily incapable of making decisions about their health. Indeed, in one of the most widely known cases involving a patient who was mentally disordered – Re C (Adult: Refusal of Medical Treatment) [1994] – it was held that a person with paranoid schizophrenia did have the capacity to refuse to consent to his gangrenous leg being amputated.2 It is thus important to distinguish between those who lack capacity and fall within the terms of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 because they are unable to make decisions about and for themselves, and those who are mentally disordered within the MHA 1983 and may pose a risk to themselves and others even though they have decision-making capacity. Under the MHA 1983, competent mentally disordered patients have the same right to refuse medical treatment as all other competent patients, but the Act does allow those who fall within its parameters to be treated without their consent in specific circumstances.