[Commitment and treatment of psychiatric patients in Great Britain and Germany. Comparison of legal principles and medical practice]

Psychiatr Prax. 1999 May;26(3):139-42.
[Article in German]


Purpose and methods: The legal provisions concerning the admission to hospital, holding powers and compulsory treatment of mentally ill persons in Great Britain and Germany are compared and the underlying medicolegal conceptions analysed.

Results: Whereas British law gives key powers to multiprofessional decision making and relatives, German law requests formal court decisions even in routine issues. This reflects a different understanding of individual rights and their protection. The German mental health law is motivated by the experiences of the totalitarian National Socialist regime. It tries to protect the patient's rights by restricting physicians, hospitals and family members' influence. British law, on the other hand, assumes that experts as well as family members act benevolently in the patient's interest, prefers less formal mechanisms and expresses trust in professional ethics.

Conclusion: Further research is necessary to analyse the situations in other countries and to investigate which of these approaches is the better one from the point of view of the mentally ill. This is even more important as in the long view European integration will touch these questions and will result in convergence of medicolegal issues.

MeSH terms

  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Legal Guardians
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Patient Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Patient Care Team / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United Kingdom