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Do the right thing by patients and families

Dr Jonathan Coleman
National Party Associate Health Spokesman

6 March 2006

Do the right thing by patients and families

National Party Associate Health spokesman Jonathan Coleman is urging caution over today's call from the Mental Health Commission for a reduction in the use of compulsory treatment orders.

"The reality is that mental health professionals use a compulsory treatment order when the judgment is that it is in the best interests of the patient,” says Dr Coleman.

“In an ideal world patients would receive treatment in the community, but often for reasons of patient safety this is not possible."

Dr Coleman says the interests of families also need to be considered.

"So often the loved ones of people suffering from mental illness have to bear incredible stress coping with a sick relative or partner. The lifesaver for many families is that a compulsory treatment order means their loved one gets the treatment they require.

"Mental health professionals are required to make critical decisions on a daily basis, and if they get it wrong the results can be tragic.

“At a time of acute mental illness a patient may not perceive that they are unwell, and will naturally be resistant to compulsory treatment. However, mental health professionals do not seek such compulsory treatment orders lightly."

Dr Coleman says he hopes the call for fewer compulsory treatment orders is not ideologically driven.

"The Mental Health Commission seems very keen on community treatment, but there needs to be a reality check to see what is really in the best interests of patients, the families who care for them, and the wider community.

"No doubt the Government welcomes a call for fewer compulsory treatment orders because it justifies reductions in acute mental health beds,” says Dr Coleman.

ENDS

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