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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 25 (1983) 3, 164 - 176

Short report

The psychiatrie patient: bound for justice?

P.J.H. Laurs

In this article the involuntary admission-procedures laid down in the bill on involuntary admissions to mental hospitals (ontwerp van Wet BOPZ) are analysed. Particularly the procedures on the judicial authorisation to admit a mentally disordered person to a mental hospital have been improved considerable compared to those in the present Lunacy Act 1884. There is an obligation for the judge to make a thorough investigation into the necessity to admit a mentally disordered person to a mental hospital, legal assistance and (counter)-assessment are warranted. It appears that the object of the bill—namely to use the involuntary admission to a mental hospital as a last resort — will be attained because of the more complicated admission-procedure. Furthermore the bill necessarily makes provision for a simpler procedure in cases of emergency caused by immediate danger. In the emergency-procedure there is no juridicial intervention. The effect of the complexity of the judicial authorisationprocedure could be that the emergency-procedure will be used more extensively and without its substantial ground namely the presence of an emergency situation. Consequently the amelioration of the legal position of the mentally disordered person in the judicial authorisation-procedure may lead to an evasion of this procedure alltogether because of delay and juridical fuss. The difficult position of the patient's legal counsel both in relation to the patient himself and to the staff looking after him is indicated. It is necessary for the legal counsels to acquire a greater understanding of the problems, values and norms of psychiatry. However, the treating staff will have to realize that their patients are subjects of law and that the law applies to the hospital as well, even if the legal norms appear to be strained between the interests of the treatment. Treatment staff en legal counsels should both in their common capacity of assistants of patients try to serve the interests of their clients in an atmosphere of mutual understanding.