Wipond, Rob. A “Patient-centred” Path towards Ignoring Patient Rights: A Critical Analysis of the Federal Senate Committee’s Dismissal of Concerns about Involuntary Treatment Laws and Civil Rights Abuses in the Canadian Mental Health System.
Abstract: The Canadian Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released a report on the mental health system in 2006, “Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada”. The Committee’s central recommendation was that Canada create a more patient-centred mental health system. Yet, the Committee utterly failed to address the fundamental lack of patients’ legal rights which drives the current, non-patient-centred system. Despite extensive discussions and witness testimonials that were extremely critical of routine involuntary psychiatric treatment and civil rights abuses in the Canadian mental health system, the Committee’s final report included no recommendations in this area. Through analysis of the language, arguments and rhetoric in the Committee’s writings, this paper demonstrates that the Senate Committee 1) accepted uncritically numerous erroneous or unproven claims from particular mental health professionals about the accuracy and efficacy of psychological and psychiatric science, and 2) deliberately misrepresented and ignored important civil rights issues surrounding involuntary treatment due to their uncritical faith in psychiatric science and deeply embedded prejudices against people diagnosed with mental illnesses. As a result, Canada lost an ideal opportunity to develop a more balanced national discussion of current involuntary treatment laws and point towards more progressive options.
Note: This article was originally published in 2008 in the journal Radical Psychology, Volume Seven, Issue 2. A PDF of that original online version of the complete article can be downloaded by clicking here. (Unfortunately, as of 2019, the Radical Psychology site and many of the original reference links to the Canadian government website are broken; however, the latter content can sometimes still be found elsewhere on the federal government website.)