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Mental health, ethics, and the legality of it all
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Mental health, ethics, and the legality of it all

Rajiv Khaitan gives us a legal perspective on mental health
ethics and mental health
Rajiv Khaitan at Mind Matters Summit 2023 | Photo credit : Goutham V

Rajiv Khaitan, Partner at Khaitan & Co LLP, delved into the ethical and legal intricacies of mental health care during his presentation at the Happiest Health Mind Matters Summit on December 9, 2023. Khaitan delved into the ethical principles and legal frameworks that act as guiding beacons for mental health professionals. Emphasising the importance of comprehending mental health care, he highlighted the critical need to navigate the complex intersection of ethics and the law.

Mental health ethics

Khaitan outlines four ethical principles guiding mental health care professionals: beneficence, non-maleficence, respect for patient autonomy, and justice.

  • Beneficence: Mental health professionals must provide care in the patient’s best interest, drawing from their experience to ensure optimal outcomes.
  • Non-maleficence: Avoid actions that harm patients.
  • Respect for patient autonomy: Patients have the right to autonomy, and their views, intentions, and preferences should be honoured before administering treatment.
  • Justice: Mental health patients should receive equal treatment without discrimination, aligning with broader healthcare standards.

Evolution of mental health laws

Khaitan spoke about the transformation of mental health laws, noting, “Historically, mental health laws were marked by misconceptions and discrimination,” he said.

He traced the evolution from the antiquated Lunatic Act to contemporary legislation influenced by the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “India ratified the convention in 2017, marking a significant shift in our approach to mental health,” said Khaitan.

Legal framework and consent

Khaitan stresses the significance of the Mental Health Care Act of 2017, implemented in 2018. He highlighted its focus on informed consent, treating mental health patients equally, and decriminalising suicide. “The Act acknowledges a patient’s capacity to grant consent and make decisions, with a Mental Health Board determining incapacity when required,” he says.

Rights-based approach

Khaitan introduced the Act’s rights-based approach with a focus on quality, non-discrimination, and patients’ entitlements. He urges collective responsibility, stating, “Healthcare professionals, social workers, and the police play vital roles in promoting mental health rights and eradicating the stigma.”

You can listen to Rajiv Khaitan Mind matters summit 2023.

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