Do mentally ill need compulsory treatment?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2012, 12:00am


Last week a man with a mental condition killed his wife and seriously injured three family members before jumping to his death from a Kwun Tong flat. This was the second attack by a mental patient in three months.

Media reports suggest the 53-year-old man had skipped medical consultations since last July. Medical staff only managed to contact him in December after he failed to turn up for his September appointment. He refused treatment again and apparently no follow-up action was taken.

The idea of compulsory treatment was proposed by the Hospital Authority two years ago. But little progress has been made. Sadly, it took another tragedy to renew a wider debate on whether this should be the way forward.

The proposed Community Treatment Order empowers police and doctors to impose treatment on high-risk mental patients. It has long been adopted in the US, Britain and Canada. But the proposal involves sensitive issues like personal freedom and privacy. It can only be introduced when there is broad public consensus.

Strengthening mental health care is useless if patients shun the treatment they need. More effective measures have to be considered. A thorough debate is a good start.

This is an edited version of a South China Morning Post editorial which appeared yesterday