Involuntary status and mental capacity for treatment decisions under Sections 4, 3, and 57 of Ireland's Mental Health Act, 2001: analysis and recommendations for reform

Ir J Psychol Med. 2021 Mar 22;1-6. doi: 10.1017/ipm.2020.136. Online ahead of print.


Although significant progress has been made in Irish mental health law in recent decades, the Mental Health Act, 2001 still falls short of properly protecting human rights. A consideration of human rights developments, both domestically and internationally, highlights the urgent need for reform. In this paper we consider Sections 4 ('Best interests'), 3 ('Mental disorder') and 57 ('Treatment not requiring consent') of the 2001 Act and related recommendations in the 2015 Report of the Expert Group on the Review of the Mental Health Act, 2001, and suggest specific areas for reform. Just as medicine evolves over time, so too does our understanding of human rights and law. While embracing a human rights-based approach to the extent suggested here might be seen as aspirational, it is important to balance achievable goals with higher ideals if progress is to be made and rights are to be respected.

Keywords: Mental health; human rights; legislation; mental capacity; treatment.