Letter: Emotional health

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Professors Gunn and Mann have stated with admirable clarity their liberal approach to diagnosis and treatment under the 1983 Mental Health Act (letters,

12 November).

I take their point that few experts care for the term "psychopath" but, unfortunately, it is enshrined in that Act.

They note that the Act (with its attendant safeguards) "calls for treatment in hospital against the patient's will in appropriate circumstances if `it is necessary for the health or safety of the patient, or for the protection of others persons' ". They clearly believe that they can provide such treatment and so their actions are lawful under the Act.

Suppose, though, that another psychiatrist conscientiously believes that a particular (unconvicted) disordered person is untreatable. Surely, therefore, compulsory detention of that person would be outwith the Act, unlawful and equivalent to internment without trial?

I would welcome clarifications from the Home Secretary that this was not what he was suggesting.