Lecture: Disabling Legal Barriers – The inaugural lecture of Professor Oliver Lewis, KCL MA Medical Ethics and Law alumnus

28 September 2016

 

3rd November 2016, 5pm

Moot Court Room
Liberty Building
School of Law
University of Leeds
LS2 9JT

This lecture will review the impact of strategic human rights litigation as a tool that can expose and demolish barriers that prevent people with mental health issues or learning disabilities from enjoying equality, inclusion and justice. Oliver will draw on fifteen years work in central and eastern Europe with the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, an international NGO that collaborates with the University and offer students an opportunity to engage with its litigation and advocacy.

Dr Oliver Lewis was called to the Bar in 2000 and is an associate barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, London. He is the Executive Director of the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, an international NGO that uses law to secure equality, inclusion and justice for people with mental health issues or learning disabilities worldwide. He is a recurrent visiting professor in law at the Central European University where he developed a LLM module on ‘Mental disability law and advocacy”, and a faculty member at the Indian Law Society where he teaches an international diploma on mental health and human rights law. He is a trustee of the Avon and Bristol Law Centre, and a member of PILNet’s Hungary board. He is interested in how law serves both as a barrier to social inclusion and as method of addressing injustice. His research has focused on international human rights law and mechanisms, human rights monitoring (including monitoring closed institutions such as psychiatric hospitals), strategic litigation, legal capacity, mental health law, political participation and the right to life.

He served as research director for the first disability project of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, and has been retained as an expert to organisations such as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights.

Register via Eventbrite.

 


Job: Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Law at Northumbria

17 November 2013

Senior Lecturer in Mental Health Law
Northumbria University -Faculty of Business and Law

Ref BAL13/04
Full Time
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Salary: £37,382 – £45,941

Northumbria is a thriving research engaged, business focused, professional university with a firm ambitious vision. Working within the Law School, you will join a team of highly qualified academics with a passion for enhancing the student experience.

The successful candidate will join the award winning Law School and will contribute to research informed learning and teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels with a particular emphasis on Mental Health Law. You will undertake research and scholarly activities contributing to the Faculty’s research profile, together with contributing to consultancy, income generation and business development activities, including providing specialist Mental Health training to external professionals.

With excellent interpersonal skills, you must be able to demonstrate expertise in and knowledge of Mental Health Law including the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act and be able to teach effectively on a range of academic and professional programmes using a variety of approaches to student learning. Appropriately professionally qualified, you must have commenced or be willing to undertake doctoral study and subsequent research.

For an informal discussion about the post, please contact Helen Kingston, Director of Legal Services on 0191 227 3828 or by email helen.kingston@northumbria.ac.uk.

To download an Application Form please click on the ‘Apply’ button below.

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sectors of the community.

Closing Date: 03 January 2014


Seminars: KCL / UCL JOINT BIOETHICS COLLOQUIUM

18 September 2013

KCL and UCL now have a substantial number of faculty and PhD students working in bioethics, broadly construed. This colloquium aims to facilitate high-level discussion among these scholars and link individuals and groups across KCL, UCL, and beyond.

Topics range from traditional questions in medical ethics and law to ethical issues in the design of health systems at the national and global level (public health ethics / global health ethics).

When? First Thursday of the month, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, with the possibility to go for drinks afterwards. Two sessions per term, starting in the fall of 2013.

Where? Alternating between KCL and UCL.

Contact: Annette Rid, James Wilson

FALL 2013

3 October 2013, 4:00 – 5:30 pm

Moot Court, UCL Laws, Bentham House – Endsleigh Gardens – London WC1H 0EG

Jonathan Wolff: Paying people to act in their own interests: incentives versus rationalisation

Continuing session in the Lord John Russell

7 November 2013, 4:00 – 5:30 pm

KCL, Room TBD

Genevra Richardson: Mental disability and human rights: can principle ever serve global reality?


Comment: Overreaction? ‘Mentally ill patients sectioned unnecessarily’

14 August 2013

The Independent lead today on a story entitled ‘Mentally ill patients sectioned unnecessarily just to gain access to a hospital bed’. To summarise, the House of Commons Select Committee on Health has uncovered ‘more than anecdotal’ evidence that the shortage of voluntary beds for mentally disordered patients has led to doctors sectioning patients under section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA 1983) in order to trigger (rapid) involuntary admission. Under section 2, a patient may be admitted to hospital for mental heath assessment for a period of up to 28 days on the recommendation of two doctors if:

(a)he is suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants the detention of the patient in a hospital for assessment (or for assessment followed by medical treatment) for at least a limited period; and
(b)he ought to be so detained in the interests of his own health or safety or with a view to the protection of other persons.

The Indy quote evidence from Dr Julie Chalmers ‘that, in some areas, “being detained is the ticket to getting a bed”’. Simon Lawton-Smith, from the Mental Health foundation is also states on the record that: ‘is [sic] was possible a clinician might section a patient who in the past would not have been sectioned in order to access a psychiatric unit’ (Indy’s paraphrase).

What should we make of this? Obviously, it is very concerning that there are not enough beds available for mentally disordered individuals seeking treatment. Mental health services suffer from underprioritisation, and individuals with mental health issues are subject to much undeserved stigma. People deserve better.

However, I also want to focus on the comments of Stephen Dorrell MP, the chair of the Health Select Committee, who said:

“This represents a serious violation of patients’ basic right and it is never acceptable for patients to be subjected to compulsory detention unless it is clinically necessary.”

I want to try outline how Dorrell’s response is possibly an overreaction, using the following hypothetical example:

Let’s say I’m a GP, and I have a patient, Nigel, who has possible mental health issues, but is not at present a risk to himself or others. Nigel, says that he would consent (let’s stipulate that he is able validly to consent) to mental health assessment and treatment on a voluntary basis. I explain to Nigel that there is a long waiting list in our area, and it is unlikely that he will be seen for assessment for some considerable time. I offer him the option of sectioning under section 2 MHA 1983, and explain the risks to him. In particular, I stress that discharge in involuntary detention cases is reliant on doctors’ clinical assessments, whereas voluntary patients can withdraw consent, which in principle will result in discharge (although the patient who withdraws consent runs the risk of being sectioned). Nigel consents to sectioning, and a colleague and I do the relevant paperwork.

To the extent that Nigel is not at present a risk to himself or others, Dorrell is right that sectioning is not clinically necessary. However, on the example that I have given, a) arguably sectioning is necessary, since it is the only way to access services in a timely fashion and b) it is hard to see how Nigel’s rights have been violated. On my scenario, Nigel’s interest in accessing mental health services has been promoted; he has voluntarily consented to being ‘involuntarily’ detained in order to receive the assessment and possible treatment he needs. Of course, the situation is not ideal, given the risk of actual involuntary detention once the 28 day period is up. However, if Nigel is aware and willing to accept this risk,* why should we deprive him of this option?

Of course, I have no evidence to suggest that this is what patients and doctors actually do in order to access mental health services.** Nevertheless, cases like Nigel’s may provide a plausible explanation for the some of the increase in sectioning. And if cases like Nigel’s do exist, I argue that what patients and doctors do is not wrong: they merely collude to game a dysfunctional system. If so, Dorrell (and others) should avoid making simplistic statements about people’s’ rights being violated when in fact they are being vindicated in a non ideal fashion.

*The risk might be mitigated if the treating mental health professionals are made aware that Nigel should really be a voluntary patient.

**Although Nigel’s case is perhaps analogous to those in which doctors manipulate insurance systems in order to provide care to the uninsured, for which there is substantial evidence.


Radio: The Lobotomists

7 November 2011

BBC Radio 4, available to listen again indefinitely via the iPlayer, repeated on Radio 4 on Wednesday 29 February 2012 at 11am

A fascinating programme about the use of leucotomy or lobotomy in Portugal, the US and the UK and the doctors who championed it as a potential cure for many psychiatric disorders from the 1930s to the 1950s.


Seminars: On mental disorder

20 January 2011

Upcoming seminars in the Centre for the Humanities and Health, King’s College London:
Wednesday 26 January 2011
Dr Hanna Pickard, University of Oxford
“Responsibility without Blame: Empathy and the Effective Treatment of Personality Disorder”
6.00 – 7.30pm
S-1.29, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Wednesday 2 February 2011
Professor Grant Gillett, University of Otago, New Zealand
“Reflections on the real nature of mental disorders from “The Bacchae””
6.00 – 7.30pm
K3.11, Strand Campus, King’s College London

Maps of the Strand Campus here.

Both events are free: no RSVP is needed. If you would like more information about these seminars, please contact me (ben.chisnall@kcl.ac.uk), or look at our website.


Conference: Making sense of mental illness: biology, medicine and society

12 December 2010

The European Molecular Biology Organization and the European Molecular
Biology Laboratory are pleased to announce the 12th EMBO/EMBL
multidisciplinary conference on Science & Society, which will take place at European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany, on the 4th and 5th November 2011.

Please check the conference website for more information.

The conference will address the often-challenging issues surrounding neurological and behavioural disorders and attitudes towards them. Experts from a wide range of disciplines will explore the ethical and social implications of mental illness and will explain the latest scientific knowledge on their causes and treatment. The conference will also debate a number of difficult topics including the definition of mental disorders, financial interests in their diagnosis and treatment, and controversial therapies. The tradition of this conference series is to promote dialogue between a wide range of professionals and members of the public.

Following a scene-setting Keynote Lecture by UK social scientist Nikolas
Rose, the conference is organized in four sessions: Session I: Impact and definition of mental illness Session II: The biology of mental illness Session III: Pills, sofas and surgery – ways of treatment Session IV: Society and mental illness.

Registration will open in February 2011

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Sandra Bendiscioli: scisoc@embo.org