Action needed to prevent human rights violations against people with mental health difficulties

Mental health organisations call on the Taoiseach to urgently address discriminatory omission in the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2022

More than 25 leaders in the community and voluntary sector have signed an open letter calling on the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin to urgently address an omission in the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2022 that could violate the rights of people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties. The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 is set to be commenced in June. The legislation will bring an end to the wardship system in Ireland and replace it with a new legal framework for supported decision-making for adults who need assistance and support to maximise their ability to make decisions about themselves.

Róisín Clarke, Interim CEO, Mental Health Reform, said: “The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2022 now set to progress through the Oireachtas marks a historic turning point in establishing a modern statutory framework for supported decision-making in Ireland. The long-awaited Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 will finally be commenced, and the Decision Support Service (DSS) will be operational. These are welcome developments and will bring Ireland more in line with our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

However, we have serious concerns that people involuntarily detained under the Mental Health Act 2001 are excluded from the important provisions of this legislation. Without Government amendments at this juncture, people who are detained in hospital for mental health treatment will be specifically excluded from legally binding advance healthcare directives. This increases the risk that people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties could receive treatment against their wishes including electro-convulsive therapy and neurosurgery.

They will have no legal right to have their advance wishes respected, even though they had capacity to make decisions about their mental health care and treatment at the time of making their directive. There is no other group of individuals that are specifically excluded from this legal right. This is contrary to their constitutional rights and international human rights standards including the UNCRPD.

We are calling for urgent amendments to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) (Amendment) Bill 2022 to ensure that the will and preferences of people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties are respected, and their human rights are protected. We raised the need for these amendments during the pre-legislative scrutiny process with the Joint Committee of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

We welcomed the inclusion of our calls in the recommendations of the Committee’s PLS report and hoped that our concerns were being heard. It is critical that the Taoiseach and Minister responsible, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, prioritises cross department cooperation to address this discriminatory gap in the legislation. We implore the Government to ensure that people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties are included in this crucial step forward for disability rights in Ireland.”


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