For patients detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, Part IV of the Act goes to some lengths to ensure that patients comprehend the nature of planned treatment programmes. Drug treatment for mental disorder may be given to a patient with or without the patient’s consent during the first three months of detention in hospital. (This does not apply to medical treatment for physical illness – this is governed by the Mental Capacity Act 2005.) At the end of the 3 month period, the patient’s consent or a second opinion will be required to continue with further administration of treatment. A patient who has capacity cannot be given ECT [Electro Convulsive Therapy] if s/he does not want it, even if s/he is detained under the Mental Health Act. These safeguards can be set aside where the need for treatment is both serious and urgent – for example, to save a patient’s life.
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