Thursday, September 22, 2016

Media stories on BC's Mental Health System and Legal Challenges to BC's Mental Health Act

Sarah Leamon: It's time to change B.C.'s Mental Health Act

British Columbia’s Mental Health Act is under fire. On September 12, a legal action was filed in B.C. Supreme Court. It is challenging the constitutional validity of the legislation and argues that the forced treatment of patients, who are suffering from mental illness, is done in breach of their charter rights.

By way of background, under the Mental Health Act, any person who is involuntarily detained at a facility for mental-health reasons lacks the ability to consent, or deny consent, to any medical treatment. In other words, they are deemed to consent to all psychiatric treatment so long as it is authorized by a director appointed by the health authority. It also denies them the ability to designate and appoint a substitute decision maker on their behalf, such as a spouse or a parent. 

This means that patients who have been involuntarily detained may be subjected to medical treatments against their will. Treatments can include medication, including injections, and invasive therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy.

The Mental Health Act is in stark contrast to the law governing general health care in this province. This law states that service providers cannot treat a patient without their express consent. The only exception to this is if there is an emergency or otherwise extraordinary and urgent circumstance. It also allows individuals who are not afflicted with mental-health issues to select substitute decision makers or make directive plans for their future care in the event that they would be unable to make such decisions or provide such consent on their own. In this way, it puts patient autonomy and dignity at its forefront.

British Columbia is actually the only province in this country to retain such a seemingly outdated legislative model. In all other provinces, all adult patients—afflicted with mental illness or not—are presumed to be capable of making decisions related to their own treatment until they are evaluated and proven incapable. Our province is therefore the only jurisdiction in which patients with mental illness are considered to be legally incompetent solely on the basis of their medical condition.

Read the full article here:


B.C. patients launch court challenge over forced psychiatric treatments

Other articles and advocacy on mental health issues:

Young, T.A. (2010). Editorial: Mental health services need an overhaul. The Province.

Young, T. (December, 2012). Tragedy results from mental health system, safety net that fall. Vancouver SunRetrieved from:

Tracey Young: How Many Must Suffer, Die, Before Action? (February 8, 2013). Retrieved from:

VPD apprehensions under the Mental Health Act level off but remain high

Lupick, T. (August 24th, 2016). Georgia Straight. Retrieved from: