Commentary on Report of Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001

The Law Committee welcomes the report of the Expert Group on the review of the Mental Health Act 2001.

The Law Committee has had reservations about the composition of the Expert Group and has previously expressed these reservations. In particular we note that there has been no representation from Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and General Practice. We consider that the lack of representation of medical professionals working in the areas of Child and Adolescent Mental Health significantly detracts from the credibility of any of the recommendations made in this area by the Expert Group.

The Law Committee notes the sterling work done on behalf of the College by Professor Brendan Kelly.

The Committee notes that it is in agreement with a fit for purpose Mental Health Act that operates within the Civil Law and is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

We note the discussion around the concept of best interests and the recommendation to remove “best interests” as guiding principle in the operation of the Mental Health Act. The Law Committee collectively recommends that our College maintain its disagreement with this recommendation. We recommend instead a reformulation of the principle of best interests as recently articulated by Professor Kelly.

We note that the Irish Medical Council is explicit in its view that doctors should always act in the best interests of their patients.

We note and comment below on the recommendations re section 51 concerning the Inspector and add the following:

  1. The reporting relationship of the Inspector of Mental Health Services to the CEO of the MHC questions the independence of the Inspector.
  2. There is no definition of Consultant Psychiatrist vis a vis who can be appointed as the Inspector. E.g. ‘should be on the specialist register for the division of psychiatry and have been in a post of consultant psychiatrist for X period of time.’