Stephen J. Hucker, MB, BS, FRCP(C), FRCPsych
  Consultant Psychiatrist,
  Professor, Division of Forensic Psychiatry, University of Toronto

       Forensic Psychiatry. ca

Mental Health Law:

Most professional groups (nurses, architects, accountants, etc.) are subject to various laws which affect the way these professionals practice. Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are no exception to this.

In this section, various relevant sections of law relating to psychiatric practice will be reviewed and summarized, with links to appropriate legislation and additional information.It is important to realize that mental disorder, and the mental health laws relating to it, apply not only the individual who suffers from the mental illness, but also those who provide care and support such as family and friends when they attempt to get the treatment they feel is required for their loved one. Obviously, the reverse also applies, in that an untreated mentally ill person will likely have a major effect on those that are close to them and who try to manage them.

Over the past 30 years there have been substantial changes in mental health legislation, influenced by patients, legal activists and others. Increasingly mental health legislation has valued particularly the rights of individuals to make free and informed decisions unless mental illness renders them incapable of making such decisions. Similarly, the amount of time that a person may be detained in hospital without a formal review has been significantly reduced and various decisions relating to this can now readily be appealed.

Ontario has experienced some rapid recent developments in mental health legislation and it is the responsibility of medical professionals, mental health professionals and service providers to be aware of these.

Mental health legislation is no longer a simple matter and requires a reading and understanding not only the basic legal statutes but also of their interpretation by the judiciary and review boards. Issues covered by mental health law include, among other things: Capacity, Consent, Duty to Warn, Emergency Treatment, Public Guardian & Trustee Issues, and Substitute Decision Makers.The following links will take viewers to relevant legislation and ministry sites:

Further Reading:

Bloom, H., Schneider, R. (Eds.). Handbook of Psychiatry & The Law in Canada(forthcoming)

Desmarais, S.L. & Hucker, S.J. Multi-site Follow-up Study of Mentally Disordered Accused: An Examination of Individuals Found Not Criminally Responsible & Unfit To Stand Trial. Research & Statistics Division, Department of Justice, Canada. June 2005.

Webster, C. D., Hucker, S. J., & Grossman, M. (1993). Clinical programmes with mentally ill offenders. In K. Howells, & C. R. Hollin (Eds.), Clinical Approaches to the Mentally Abnormal Offender. New York: Wiley.

Hucker, S. J . (with Harding, T. W., Westmore, B., Berner, W., Deutcher, P., Adserballe, H., & Wettstein, R.). (1993). A comparative survey of medico‑legal systems outside Britain. In J. Gunn & P. Taylor (Eds.), Forensic Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Issues. London: Heinemann.

Hucker, S. J. , & Webster, C. D. (1992). The organization and administration of secure psychiatric institutions. In E. Persad, S. Kazarian & L. Joseph (Eds.), The Mental Hospital in the 21st Century. Toronto: Wall & Emerson Inc.

Ben-Aron, M. H., & Hucker, S. J. (1985). Medical‑legal issues. In V. M. Rakoff, S. Greben, & G. Voineskos (Eds.), A Method of Psychiatry (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger.

Hucker, S. J. (1985). Medical-legal issues. In B. W. Steiner (Ed.), Gender Dysphoria: Development, Research, Management. New York: Plenum.

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