Ombudswoman proposes better protection of persons with mental disorders

Based on received complaints and visits to psychiatric institutions, the need for amending and improving the existing Law on Protection for Persons with Mental Disorder was noticed and repeatedly pointed to by the Ombudsman in recent Annual Reports. Therefore the Ombudswoman made comments to the draft Law which envisages stronger human rights safeguards from which it is expected to reduce significantly the possibilities of the abuse of the rights of this vulnerable group.

The new law proposal envisages a positive breakthrough with respect to the “involuntary placement” and re-introduces the court supervision of placement of persons with mental disorder who are not able to give their consent, as one of the control mechanisms which should reduce significantly the abuse of this institute.

Along with the positive remarks to this legal solution, we proposed as well a range of amendments in order to strengthen the protection of the rights of this largely marginalised group. Hence, the introduction of a „person in confidence“ as a new solution in the Croatian legal system is welcomed in order to avoid unnecessary determination of the individual’s legal capacity (and guardianship) only for the purpose of medical treatment.

The Ombudswoman proposes improvements in the use of restraints on persons with mental disorders; advocating that such measures must be prescribed by the law, not by subordinated regulations, and insisting on a compulsory education of medical staff on application of the restraint measures as stipulated by the law.

Special attention was paid to the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as proposed in the new law: this therapy may be used only as a final solution and with obligatory consent of a person with mental disorder and if such a treatment would be beneficial and without harmful consequences.