Monday, November 27, 2006

England: Many say new law needed now

Letters to the editor in reaction to Tim Salmon's oped about his son have been fierce. A few examples ...

In all The Observer coverage last week of the new Mental Health Bill, the insightful portrayal by Tim Salmon of his son's schizophrenia best explained why we must reform the law to help patients and their carers ensure that the small number of who need it receive the treatment and protection they need. The proposals in the Mental Health Bill are essential to reflect how care is now delivered. Eight years of consultation have shown how difficult it is to find a consensus, but there is broad agreement that we must update the 1983 Act, and it is urgent that we make these changes.

- Rosie Winterton Minister of State for Health, London SW1

As doctors, we, too, have noted the linguistic shifts where people are called 'service users' when they may only be 'using' the services after legally being forced to do so. The aim, apparently, is to empower patients. In fact, health providers use this language to withdraw care. To talk of 'choices' makes it easy to present them as no longer in need. One of us has suffered a mental illness for the past 25 years. The 'care' was perfunctory and punitive. It is almost now non-existent. We were told to 'take responsibility', often by people unable to do so themselves.

- Sally Baker and BJ Brown Llanrug, Caernarfon

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