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China mulls new law to prevent abuse of compulsory mental illness treatment

(Xinhua)

10:59, October 25, 2011

The first plenary meeting of the 23rd session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee is held in Beijing, capital of China, Oct. 24, 2011. Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, presided over the meeting. (Xinhua/Fan Rujun)

BEIJING, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature on Monday started to read a draft law on mental health, which will require strict conditions and procedures for compulsory mental treatment if passed.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) reviewed a draft of the Mental Health Law during its bimonthly session, which will run from Oct. 24 to 29.

The provisions are designed to outlaw the abuse of compulsory mental treatment and protect citizens from undergoing unnecessary treatment or illegal hospitalization.

According to the draft, mental health examinations and treatments must be done at the discretion of the patients or their guardians and close relatives on a voluntary basis.

However, if a patient poses danger to himself or others, his or her close relatives, employer or local police authorities may send him or her to a hospital at once for a diagnosis, the draft says.

Every mental illness diagnosis should be made by more than two qualified psychiatrists, the draft says. Patients who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness and have the potential to harm themselves or others should be sent for compulsory inpatient treatment, the draft says.

If the patients or their relatives do not agree with the results of the examination, they may ask for a second opinion, as well as request the services of judicial experts up to two times, before the compulsory treatment is enforced, the draft says.

According to the draft, those who give false diagnoses or judicial testimony in relation to compulsory mental illness treatment will be held liable or even be criminally charged.

The draft was previously published by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council on its official website in June to seek public feedback.

China currently has about 16 million people suffering from severe mental disorders, according to a report presented at the session by Health Minister Chen Zhu.

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