British Columbia allows involuntary internment of people with serious mental health problems. It is then presumed that they automatically consent to the care given to them.
Disability rights organization can now challenge controversial BC law on forced hospitalization of people with medical conditions serious mental illness.
The Supreme Court of Canada has granted the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) the right, on behalf of involuntary patients, to bring a constitutional challenge against the Mental Health Act.
The decision ends the B.C. government's campaign to keep this case out of court, says Kevin Love, one of the lawyers representing the organism. This puts us right back where we started.
In 2016, CCD and two people who received treatment without consent took legal action, but in 2017 the patients withdrew for personal reasons.
The organization then pursued the lawsuit on its own, which the province disputed until, on June 23, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that CCD has standing to sue in the best interests of the organization. public.
According to the CCD, the Mental Health Act of British Columbia violates the right to equality, enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter, as well as section 7, which guarantees the right to liberty and the security of his person.
The challenged law allows doctors to detain without their consent people who suffer from serious psychiatric problems, if they present a risk to their own well-being or that of others, or that the confinement is necessary to avoid that their state of health does not deteriorate. These individuals are then presumed to consent to the treatments given to them.
This is the only province that presumes that someone who is involuntarily admitted is incapable of making decisions related to their treatment, says Kevin Love.
Also, for people who are unable to make decisions on their own or who need help to do so, [the law] allows for the imposition of treatment without allowing them to get help from a representative, a family member, or someone they trust, adds the lawyer.
“British Columbia is the latest province to cling to this outdated system, and that is why we are calling on the government to change these laws.
—Kevin Love, Attorney
In Quebec, for example, although it is also possible, following a different process, to admit someone against their will to a psychiatric establishment, it requires the authorization of the Court to then impose treatment on them, which is not the case in British Columbia.
An administrative tribunal, the Mental Health Review Board, can review and overrule doctors' decisions, but only if the patient or a person speaking on his behalf claims it. This commission has the obligation to hear the request within 14 days of its receipt, during which time the forced hospitalization can continue.
According to the president of the CCD, British Columbia law discriminates against people with mental health problems, since it treats them differently from others, who always have the possibility of withdrawing their consent for treatments.
< p class="e-p">It is a loss of the right to consent to medical treatment, says Heather Walkus. So all the drugs we want to administer to them, electroshock treatments, isolation […], all these things that have value for people, they have no right to accept or refuse them , and no one around them can consent in their place.
The President of CCD would like the organization not to have to pursue the dispute in court.
Rather than having to challenge the Mental Health Act in court, we hope the government will tell us that they want to sit down with us to work on the changes that need to be made. be done, says Heather Walkus. Going to court should be the last resort.
The government, asked to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and the intentions of the CCD, says it is unable to do so because the case is still before the courts.
With information from Catherine Dib