Ethics - Mental disorders and disabilities

From CambridgeNotes

Definitions (mental health act 1983 definitions)

  • Mental disorder defined as mental illness, arrested or incomplete development of mind (mental impairment or severe mental impairment), psychopathic disorder and any other disorder or disability of the mind
  • Mental disorder excludes: dependence on drugs or alcohol, promiscuity, and sexual deviancy
  • Learning disability and psychopathic disorder only meet legal definition if "abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct"
  • Though mental illness undefined it has been clarified by use e.g. not appropriate to detain "neurotic" patient

Application of the mental health act

  • Compulsory detention in hospital: if patient suffering from mental disorder; if disorder needs treatment; and if protection of patient and society best served by treatment in hospital (see relevant sections of the mental health act)
  • Enforcing treatment outside hospital: difficult but new mental health act 1995 (Patients in Community)
  • Others: courts can manage finances etc. if necessary

Crime and mental illness

  • Fitness to plead: in order to stand trial person must be fit to defend themselves – if guilty on "trial of facts" but not fit to plead they are usually sent for psychiatric treatment
  • Responsibility: guilty necessitates both action and "state of mind" e.g. intent to kill in murder or gross negligence in manslaughter; can plead "insanity" or "diminished responsibility" (reduces crime from murder to manslaughter)
  • Sentence: judge decides unless murder (always life)
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