DISCLAIMER: Please note that the information contained in this post does not constitute legal advice. The law is in perpetual evolution, and this information may be outdated. Furthermore, this information may have little or no relevance for your particular legal predicament. Retaining a lawyer is the surest way to obtain useful and accurate legal advice.
The Mental Health Act
The British Columbia Mental Health Act (1996) is an Act that was created to provide guidelines to make sure that those members of our society who suffer from acute disorders of the mind get appropriate and necessary treatment. The Act lays out the framework that describes what can be done to not only treat, but also protect these vulnerable members of our society. Certain guidelines and criteria have been created to make sure that those who need the help, get the help, while trying to balance their rights and freedoms.
Certification and Admission
Admission to a hospital takes place in two ways: Voluntarily, or involuntarily. Voluntary admission to a treatment facility can be done by anyone who is sixteen years of age or older. Those under the age of sixteen need consent of an older adult, such as a parent or guardian. Individuals who feel that they really need the treatment can ask to be admitted into a hospital, or a psychiatric facility. This being said, the decision must be in agreeance with a doctor’s clinical examination.
Involuntary admission is when an individual is admitted to a hospital or psychiatric hospital without their consent. This is usually because the individual is assessed to be at risk of causing harm to others or to him or herself. Unlike voluntary admission, involuntarily admitted individuals are usually kept in special hospitals, or supervised hospitals if a psychiatric hospital does not have a bed. Involuntary admission can take place in three ways.
To keep an individual certified, a doctor’s certificate and examination is necessary. For example, involuntary patients can be kept in the hospital for 48 hours. However, to keep a patient longer, a second doctor must conduct an examination to measure the seriousness of an individual’s case. More doctors need to conduct examinations if the patient needs to be kept for 3 months, 6 months, or longer. Six months after the first certification, renewal requires a re-assessment.
Voluntary patients can leave the facility freely. However, involuntary patients cannot leave the hospital facility as they please. A doctor must discharge the patient and give them permission. However, involuntary patients can ask for a Mental Health Review Panel - an independent committee made of a doctor, lawyer, and a member of the general public - to review the patient's certification. The patient is entitled to representation by a lawyer at their Review Panel. The Review Panel process is conversational, and the rights of the patient are meant to be protected.