China adopts mental health law, protecting rights

Updated: 2012-10-26 13:46


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BEIJING - China's new mental health law, adopted on Friday, is expected to protect the rights of mentally ill people, reduce abuse and raise public awareness of mental disorders.

The Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress approved the bill at its bi-monthly session, which ran from Tuesday to Friday.

Under the new law, there should be no infringements upon the dignity, personal safety or the property of mentally ill people.

The law also stipulates that institutions and individuals should protect the privacy of mentally ill people by preventing leaks of private information, such as their names, addresses and employment status, unless the sharing of such data is necessary for institutions and individuals while exercising their lawful duties.

China currently has about 16 million people suffering from severe mental disorders, according to the Ministry of Health.

The law is expected to curb abuses regarding compulsory mental health treatment and protect citizens from undergoing unnecessary treatment or illegal hospitalization.

The law bans mental health examinations on a citizen against his or her own will. However, if a person suffering suspected mental illness poses a danger to himself or herself, or to others, close relatives, an employer or local police authorities may send him or her to a hospital at once for a diagnosis, it says.

Under the law, every mental illness diagnosis should be made by a qualified psychiatrist.

Mentally ill people shall receive inpatient treatment on a voluntary basis, except those who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness and have the potential to harm themselves or others.