The new law does not adequately regulate mental healthcare facilities in the country: expert

The new Mental Healthcare Bill 2012 needs to be reviewed keeping in mind the autonomy of patients, said activists and specialists at a discussion on mental health and patients’ rights.

This was one of the important conclusions that came out of a discussion, Mental Health and Patients’ Rights, which was part of a seminar, ‘Cancer and Mental Health Patients: Their Rights to Autonomy and Emotional Well-Being’ held in the city on Saturday.

Giving an overview of the new Mental Health Care Bill 2012 and the right to autonomy, Jayna Kothari from the Centre for Law and Policy Research said the Bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet on June 14, should have undergone further debate before it was presented in the Parliament.

Wanted: regulations

The new Bill, once approved by Parliament, will repeal the Mental Health Act 1987. “Issues regarding how legal capacity of persons with mental illness can be enforced need to be re-examined. Mental healthcare institutions need more regulations. But the new law does not adequately regulate the facilities,” she added.

Sanjeev Jain, professor of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), who spoke on ‘Institutional Responsibilities and Patients’ Rights’, gave a professional perspective on the challenges faced by doctors in enabling a rights-of-patients environment in practice. “How do we tackle a situation when a patient refuses treatment but the doctor feels it is important for the patient” he asked.

Trained counsellors

Uttara Vidyasagar from Viveka Centre for Emotional Support stressed the importance of counselling patients and families and the need for more counsellors to be trained. She said the need was so huge that there was scope for self-help groups, trained counsellors and psycho-oncologists as well to provide support and emotional support.

Gurmeet Singh Randhawa, managing trustee of Bangalore Hospice Trust, spoke on the importance of doctor-patient communication and how direct communication was essential in helping the patient and the family cope with the illness.

The seminar was jointly organised by Ashraya and the Centre for Law and Policy Research.

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