Response: "Patients' rights frustrate families" - Globe & Mail

March 12, 2009


The Editor

Globe and Mail

Dear Editor:

How could Andre Picard contribute to the mythology around mental health law? I have practiced mental health law for 14 years in Ontario representing consumers and survivors. It is wrong to say that the Charter and the Mental Health Act interfere with treatment. People are found incapable with respect to treatment every day. The success rate on appeal is 10% such that the doctors view of capacity is upheld 90% of the time. The law prohibits the tribunal that hears the appeals from applying the Charter. So while the laws look great on paper, in practice it doesn’t meaningfully safeguard the rights of those detained in psychiatric facilities.

Twice in one week, in two different hospitals, I saw nurses deliver a needle accompanied by security guards in uniform. This is routine. One client almost died as a result of the medication he was forced to take. Others developed diabetes or were medicated so that they could not function. In spite of these risks, many clients chose to take treatment.

If we want people to engage in treatment, let’s respect the liberty of people with mental health problems and change the way that we deliver care. Let’s start with finding a better way to treat, rather than look for a better way to force it on people.

Yours very truly,

Suzan E. Fraser