New Delhi: Aiming to humanise the treatment of mental illnesses, government has drafted a new Bill which proposes to give patients the right to choose in advance the kind of treatment and recommends use of electric shocks in rare cases.
In the new draft law for mental sickness, government also proposes to ban electro convulsive treatment (ECT) (electric shocks) for minors as also its use directly in adults and recommended its use only in rare cases and that too under general anaesthesia.
It also proposes grant of medical insurance for patients who till now are not covered for insurance.
The new `Mental Healthcare Bill - 2012` prepared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and cleared by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is ready to be sent to the Cabinet before being introduced in Parliament.
Incidentally, the proposals come ahead of Mental Health Day on October 10.
Once approved, the Bill for the first time, provides for persons with mental illness the right to know the criteria for admission to a facility, to seek a review of the admission being administered and to know the treatment planned by the doctor.
The Bill also seeks to broaden the definition of mental
illness and recommends decriminalisation of suicide and proposes to ban tonsuring (of heads) of the sick under treatment in mental homes.
The Bill also gives everyone the right to write "Advanced Directives" whereby people can list their choices regarding treatment beforehand.
The law for the first time makes a distinction between mental illness and disability and says that a mentally ill person cannot be assumed to be incapacitated to make his or her decisions. If a person wants admission for treatment, voluntary treatment will be the norm, it says.
In cases where a person is temporarily incapacitated due to high degree or illness, a person nominated by him will exercise the right to make a choice on his behalf.
The Bill also proposes to bring Mental Health Review Commissions at district, state and national levels.
In case of any violations of the provisions of proposed law, the Bill proposes imprisonment ranging from six months to two years and/or fine from Rs 10,000 to Rs five lakh, sources said.
The Bill, however, gives relatives the right to move a quasi-judicial body “the Mental Health Review Commission” to appeal against a mentally ill`s decision to refuse treatment in case such a person is a threat to his own life or to that of the others.
"When the person recovers after treatment, that right will revert to him," the draft law says.
"The law is pro-people. It says if anyone needs admission to a hospital, he or she should be given the same. Treatment of mental illnesses would have to be mandatory in all government-run and funded institutions and those below poverty line will get free treatment," Health Ministry sources said.
They said once the Bill becomes a law, people wandering about in streets cannot be put into a mental asylum by force. "A person will have the right to refuse treatment. Only when a person with mental illness is not in a position to make a choice, this right will be temporarily exercised by a person of their choice and will revert back to them once they have recovered after treatment," sources say.
The Bill also proposes to limit the admission period to only seven days initially and then subject the patient to psychiatric treatment.
"Doctors cannot keep mentall sick patients in mental hospitals for long durations," sources said.
At present, there are atleast 4 to 5 per cent people in the country suffering from mental illness of some kind.