Doctors 'failed to follow law'

DOCTORS and a social worker who detained a woman under the Mental Health Act, despite a tribunal ordering her release, had failed to notify her closest relative as the law demands, the High Court was told yesterday, writes Stephen Ward.

Lawyers for the woman, Eleanor Mulcahy, 39, of Clapham, south London, are asking for a writ of habeas corpus, (the right, enshrined in Magna Carta, not to be detained without trial). They have argued that the doctor and hospital managers at the South Western Hospital in Clapham had to abide by the findings of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Robert Buchan, for Miss Mulcahy, told Mr Justice Laws yesterday that another reason for asking for her release was that the second detention had been wrongly carried out. Patients can be detained under the Act if two doctors and a social worker think they may be a danger to themselves or others, or if they refuse proper treatment outside hospital. But the Act insists that the nearest relative be informed and told of the patient's legal rights.

Mr Buchan told the court that when the social worker signed the form she had said Eileen Mulcahy, the patient's mother, had been telephoned in Cork, and had not objected. But this form was invalid, because for the purposes of the act the closest relative has to be resident in the UK. The hospital should have consulted her brother, a priest living in London, but had not done so.

Judgment is expected today.