Thursday, October 28, 2004

Police to uphold law not decide mental health

A diagnosis of mental illness could be made over the phone instead of in person, and involuntary psychiatric patients could lose the right to have their case reviewed by a magistrate, under proposed changes to NSW mental health laws.

The same right taken off prisoner to have internal claims made against them by the corrupt Department of Corrective Services.


Justice Denied In NSW Corrective Services

There used to be a (VJ) or Visiting Justice who would go into the prison and judge any claim or accusation that was made by any prisoner or prison guard. If it were found that a prisoner had offended then punishment was metered out.

The reason for a VJ meant that the wide ranging discretion that the commissioner has in relation to the "Good order and security of the prison" could not be conducted on false premise say because some politician, police or prison guard took offence to a certain prisoner who was unpopular, either politically or personally.

The Ombudsman cannot ask the Department of Corrective Services to prove that some type of internal offence has been committed because under the wide-ranging discretion the Commissioner has there is no clause to force the commissioner to produce such evidence?

Therefore an unpopular prisoner can be isolated at say the (HRMU) High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Correctional Centre, denied visits, without any fresh air or sunlight, no constructive lifestyle, freezing and starving for as long as the Commissioner of Corrective Services want them to.

The evidence shows that after a prolonged duration the prisoner will either, commit suicide, self-harm or suffer brain damage. Mental illness is then addressed by sending the prisoner to Long Bay Prison Hospital and placed on medication - forced on the prisoner -possibly for the rest of the duration of the prisoner's sentence.

As you can see by the above example this opens the door for police corruption again and you could not only be terrified by police corruption but completely blocked from being able to tell someone about it as has happened in the case of Clover Moore V's Gregory Kable.

Gregory Kable went to Clover Moore to complain about police corruption and police picked up Kable from Clovers Paddington office [abduction] and was drugged and taken to a mental health facility and released three days later by a Magistrate Pierce.

Pierce who claimed the arrest was unlawful based on the fact that Kable committed no crime for posting an article on the parliamentarian's office claiming police harassment and corruption in the highest order!

As well, police and nurses could order emergency medication for involuntary patients without a doctor being present, under options being considered to address a chronic shortage of psychiatrists and judicial officers outside major centres.

Again the police convinced not only the doctor at Caritas Mental Health facility that Kable needed medication but also the nursing staff. But if the case had been examined by some type of forum then the doctor could have been struck off for incompetence. So imagine that a nurse made the very same decision without the doctor? That means the Carr Government would get out of it if found to be derelict for the cost of a nurses reputation.

Beverley Raphael, director of the NSW Health Department's Centre for Mental Health, said changing legislation was not ideal. "We certainly don't pretend that's the principal solution to the shortage of professionals," Professor Raphael said. She added the state would fast-track specialist mental health training for regional and rural doctors.

But NSW could not meet the requirements of the present Mental Health Act - which governs how patients are diagnosed and reviewed - amid a continuing worldwide dearth of psychiatrists, she said.

Also on the table is an expansion of the categories of people who can be detained for extended periods. For the first time, people who are not mentally ill but who have drug or alcohol problems or are in the grip of an acute personal crisis could be held under the same terms as those suffering psychiatric illnesses.

The options are contained in a discussion paper for a review of the act, for which public submissions close on Saturday. A spokeswoman for NSW Health said it was expected draft legislation would be presented to the Health Minister, Morris Iemma, early next year.

Extending ongoing involuntary care to the "mentally disordered" would "effectively supersede the current definitions of a mentally ill person" and potentially erode patients' civil rights, the discussion paper acknowledged. "One concern that is raised by some clinicians is that increasingly broad interpretations are being given to this term to use the [law] as a tool to control difficult or dangerous individuals who, for various reasons, cannot be dealt with by other agencies."

Likewise, the paper pointed out that shifting responsibility from a magistrate to a tribunal for the first review of a person held against their will would "substantially dilute the protections the act currently provides". And a further option to consider extending the 12-hour maximum time a person can be detained before their first psychiatric assessment "makes inroads into the liberties of the patient".

Barbara Hocking, executive officer of the Sane charity and advocacy group, said the proposals put expediency ahead of patient welfare. It was "appalling that because we're offering third-rate services we adjust the law accordingly", she said.

Louise Newman, chairwoman of the NSW branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said police needed powers to take people to hospital for assessment, but said that should not extend to matters of medical judgement such as describing a person's symptoms to a psychiatrist by phone so that drugs could be authorised. "The issue of police making clinical decisions, we'd be very cautious about ... resource issues are impacting on clinical decision making," Dr Newman said. It was "fundamentally unethical" to compromise recognised standards of patient care because of practical difficulties meeting them, she said.

By Julie Robotham and Nuts 28 October 04



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There used to be a (VJ) or Visiting Justice who would go into the prison and judge any claim or accusation that was made by any prisoner or prison guard. If it were found that a prisoner had offended then punishment was metered out.

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