Mental Health Law

Article excerpt

Mental Health Law

Decisions and Dilemmas: Working With Mental Health Law. Jill Peay. Portland (OR): Hart Publishing; 2003. 217 p. US$40.00.

Reviewer rating: Very Good

Painstaking dissection and examination, by nonlawyers, of the corpus of mental health law decision making is the central attraction of this terse volume. The author, Jill Peay, is a reader in the Department of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Peay has craned a somewhat unconventional text characterized by a varied structure. The empirical heart of the book is a study methodically examining the terrain of nonlawyer, duodisciplinary decision making by psychiatrists and social workers (with specialized training in mental health) pursuant to the 1983 Mental Health Act (the principal statutory edifice governing the treatment of mentally ill persons in England and Wales). Analytic material comprises the remainder of the structurally bifurcated textual content.

Peay's overarching purpose is to identify the gamut of strategies employed by participating nonlawyer mental health practitioners, with respect to resolving hypothetical cases and addressing particular scenarios. In the process, she seeks to expose the clinical, legal, and ethical quandaries potentially posed by common dilemmas encountered in real-life mental health practice. Although the pages of the text savour strongly and unmistakably of UK-rooted law, the empirical and analytic material presented should nonetheless enthrall those nonlawyers in Canada and elsewhere who are professionally tethered in some capacity to the realm of mental health law and suffering from trepidations and uncertainties as to how to properly discharge their attendant responsibilities.

The 106 psychiatrists and social workers participating in the study were required to make individual and paired decisions concerning 3 common scenarios: the possible compulsory hospital admission of a patient, the possible discharge of a long-stay patient subject to compulsory hospital detention, and the possible imposition of compulsory treatment. For this purpose, 3 well-conceived hypothetical cases were created. These salutary and vital elements make up the first 3 chapters of the book.

The multipronged format employed with respect to the respective hypothetical cases warrants brief attention. …