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Activists seek amendments to mental health law

(Global Times)

10:14, October 25, 2012

Activists called for further amendments Wednesday to a draft law on mental health to protect the rights of mental patients and to prevent more mentally healthy people from being hospitalized.

The suggestions were made after the third round of discussions on the draft Tuesday by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Huang Xuetao, a lawyer from the Equity and Justice Initiative, a Shenzhen-based NGO dedicated to protecting people with mental disabilities, said two suggestions put forward by the NGO Sunday were not mentioned in Tuesday's discussion but she hoped they would be adopted in the final draft.

Loopholes in China's mental health system have resulted in many healthy people ending up in mental hospitals. Law enforcement agencies sent people who they assume to be dangerous to public security to receive psychiatric treatment, according to previous reports.

Huang said that people who end up in mental hospitals have great difficulties in choosing lawyers and their appeal are often ignored by the hospital as they are considered insane.

The NGO suggested the new law fully grant people in mental hospitals the right to file lawsuits and choose their own lawyers when hospitalized, as well as the right to meet with their lawyers in hospitals.

Before appointing a formal guardian, the court should also evaluate the mental condition of people who are likely to be sent for treatment and the necessity for them to be taken care of by a temporary guardian, and check if there are any conflicts between the two sides, the NGO advocated.

"If the two suggestions are adopted and enforced, the number of healthy people ending up in mental hospitals will be greatly reduced," said Huang.
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