Mental Health Care and the Rule of Law – Lessons Learnt from the Corona Crisis

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Law Issues".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 July 2022) | Viewed by 5038

Special Issue Editor

Gesundheit Nord gGmbH, Klinikum Bremen-Ost, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Academic Teaching Hospital of Hamburg University, Züricher Str. 40, 28325 Bremen, Germany
Interests: human rights; mental health care; involuntary treatment; disability rights

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), several UN bodies, among them the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have argued for a complete ban of all coercive interventions in mental health care. Concepts have been drafted for a system in mental health care based on support only. In such a model, psychiatry this would lose its function as an agent of social control but follow the will and preferences of those who require support. Scenarios have been drawn up for dealing with risk in inpatient care, for support in police custody, and for mental illness in prison. Sanctions could only be applied in a non-discriminatory way and would no longer be based on a suspected or diagnosed mental illness.

The main part of the mandate of the UN SPT, based on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), is to visit places of detention in State Parties and to advise and assist both State Parties and National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to strengthen protections against torture and ill-treatment. The Advice of SPT to State Parties and NPMs relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted on 25 March 2020, aims to prevent measures that could be regarded as torture and ill-treatment against persons deprived of their liberty.

Subsequently, NPMs and the UN SPT discussed the best possible measures to address the pandemic and the question of how to defend the achievements made on its basis. What are the consequences of these developments, particularly for mental health care?

From the outside, in June 2020, Germany seemed to be a lucky state concerning its handling of the pandemic. However, the German policy of protecting elderly and psychiatrically disabled persons from infection and death led to a significant and additional deprivation of liberty in the institutional care of these persons. In many cases, the forms of detention were not even based on solid legal grounds.

Will we see in 2021 that persons with a psychiatric diagnosis or psychosocial disabilities at high risk for COVID-19 infection suffered more from the collateral damage of exclusion caused by state measures during lockdown than they benefitted—will they be grateful for this sort of special care? Additionally, which efforts did the German National Preventive Mechanism undertake during the pandemic to protect people from ill-treatment and torture?

Thank you very much for considering a contribution to this Special Issue on assessing the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the promotion of human rights in Germany’s mental health care. Martin Zinkler will review a concept for mental health care based on support only, instead of support and social control. Marina Langfeldt will focus on the role of the UN SPT. Margret Osterfeld will focus on the National Prevention Mechanism (UN-OPCAT).

We aim to add to the current literature on the promotion of human rights according to the UN-CRPD.

Please let me know if there are other topics or authors you would like to include in this Special Issue.

Dr. Martin Zinkler
Guest Editor

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  • human rights
  • mental health care
  • COVID-19 pandemic

Published Papers (1 paper)

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13 pages, 279 KiB  
Coping with Criticism and Embracing Change—Further Reflexions on the Debate on a Mental Health Care System without Coercion
Laws 2021, 10(2), 22; - 31 Mar 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4401
In August 2019, a manuscript was published in this journal that aimed at imagining a mental health care system that renounces the judicial control to better focus on the will and preferences of those who require support. Alternative scenarios for dealing with risk, [...] Read more.
In August 2019, a manuscript was published in this journal that aimed at imagining a mental health care system that renounces the judicial control to better focus on the will and preferences of those who require support. Alternative scenarios for dealing with risk, inpatient care, and police custody were presented that elicited strong and emotionally laden reactions. This article adds further reflections to this debate, aiming at contributing explanations for this unsettlement. A productive notion of criticism is discussed, and ways to achieve change toward a more human rights-oriented psychiatric practice are outlined. Full article
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