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Formal Justifications for Compulsory Psychiatric Detention

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2000
<mark>Journal</mark>Medicine, Science and the Law
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)319-326
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The formal justifications for all detentions under s.2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 within an inner-city mental health trust were examined over a 12-month period. The study explored: the nature of the justifications for detention; the extent to which these were associated with patient characteristics; and the extent to which the two medical practitioners involved in each case agreed on the justifications. The justifications reflected a greater emphasis on the protection of the individual concerned rather than the protection of others. A content analysis of the textual justifications revealed five broad themes: the nature of the risk posed by the patient; the patient's capacity to provide informed consent; their need for hospitalization; their lack of consent to informal admission; and their reliability or likely compliance. There was a significant association between patients' sex, ethnic group, diagnosis and the nature of risk indicated in the documentation, but further research is needed to clarify the nature of this association. The study found that in nearly a quarter of cases, the two professionals did not agree about whether or not the patient presented a danger to others. This lack of agreement was not associated with any patient or professional characteristics, and may reflect the complexity of this area of risk assessment. The authors suggest that the issue of 'risk' needs to be addressed in a more
sophisticated manner within the Mental Health Act. Specifically, further guidance is needed as to
the nature and leuels of risk that constitute grounds for detention. Further guidance is also needed
regarding the issues that need to be recorded on the legal documentation for detention.