An End to Coercion: Rights and Decision-Making in Mental Health Care

(January 2020)

Sugiura, K., Mahomed, F., Saxena, S. & Patel, V. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 98(1): 52-58

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires a paradigm shift from a medical model of disability to a social model that emphasizes overcoming the barriers to equality created by attitudes, laws, government policies and the social, economic and political environment. The approach adopted by the social model recognizes that people with psychosocial disabilities have the same right to take decisions and make choices as other people, particularly regarding treatment, and have the right to equal recognition before the law. Consequently, direct or supported decision-making should be the norm and there should be no substitute decision-making. Although recent mental health laws in some countries have attempted to realize a rights-based approach to decision-making by reducing coercion, implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities can be challenging because it requires continuous refinement and the development of alternatives to coercion. This article reviews the impact historical trends and current mental health frameworks have had on the rights affected by the practice of involuntary treatment and describes some legal and organizational initiatives that have been undertaken to promote noncoercive services and supported decision-making. The evidence and examples presented could provide the foundation for developing a context-appropriate approach to implementing supported decision-making in mental health care. Read more