Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

The New Mental Health Ordinance 1996 to 1997-A Reference Guide for Physicians and Mental Health Workers

Academic journal article Hong Kong Journal of Psychiatry

The New Mental Health Ordinance 1996 to 1997-A Reference Guide for Physicians and Mental Health Workers

Article excerpt


The multifarious amendments to the Mental Health Ordinance of Hong Kong in 1996 to 1997 can be conceptualised into two main themes:

* To facilitate mentally incapacitated persons in obtaining the treatment and supervision they need: (a) expanded definition of relative; (b) increased powers of the court in managing their property and affairs; (c) introduction of a guardianship order and supervision and treatment order; (d) increased powers of the guardian; and (e) statutory recognition of the physician's power in providing medical treatment without consent to mentally incompetent adults.

* To protect mentally incapacitated persons from undue control under the Mental Health Ordinance: (a) re-definition of mental handicap from mental disorder; (b) offenders found unfit to plead or not guilty by reason of insanity need not automatically be locked up under hospital order; (c) creation of a guardianship board; (d) specification of special treatments so that these cannot be performed for mentally incompetent adults without court approval; and (e) further safeguards on the human rights of inmates of mental hospitals.

Keywords: Hong Kong Legislation; Mental Disorder; Mental Handicap; Mental Health


During 1996 and 1997, substantial amendments were made to the Mental Health Ordinance (MHO) of Hong Kong. (1,2) Since the original wordings of the Amendment Ordinances are fairly complex, a quick reference guide would be a service to physicians and mental health workers. In addition, some comments and explanatory notes have been written at the end of each Part of the new ordinance, so as to enable the readers to grasp the spirit and implications behind these changes.

The core spirit behind these amendments are two: (1) to facilitate the 'mentally incapacitated person' (MIP) in obtaining the treatment and supervision they need; and (2) as a counterbalance, to protect the MIP from undue control under the MHO as a result of such increased powers of the law. All the amendments can be understood from one of these two angles.

The new MHO now consists of 10 Parts. Parts I, II, III, IIIA**, IIIB**, IV, IVA, IVB**, IVC**, and V. For easy access to the most important amendments, the reader can simply read the comments at the end of each Part.


Section 2(1): Definitions

(a) the Chinese translation of 'social worker' has been changed from: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]

(b) different kinds of 'guardian': see Table 1

(c) reduced scope of 'mental disorder': see Figure 1

(d) 'psychopathic disorder' has been changed from a 'disorder of mind' to 'disorder of personality'

(e) expanded scope of 'Relative': see Table 2

Section 2(2): Medical Opinions

Special experience in mental disorder or mental handicap, as approved by the Hospital Authority (HA), is required for at least one or two of the medical practitioners for the purposes shown in Table 3.

Section 2(6): 'Medical Superintendent'

Includes alternative title such as 'Hospital Chief Executive'.



The most important amendments here are as follows:

* The distinction between 'mental disorder' and 'mental handicap'--this is in response to the demands of certain community groups for separate legislation for mental disorder and mental handicap. Instead of separate legislation, however, mental handicap remains within the MHO along with mental disorder under the umbrella-term mental incapacity. The only difference compared with previously is that mental handicap in the absence of mental illness or abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct (area B in Figure 1) can no longer be a reason for compulsory detention in a mental hospital or correctional services department (CSD) psychiatric centre apart from under a remand order. …

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