Involuntary hospitalized persons with mental and behavioral disorders from now on will be able to take advantage of an independent assessment of their state of mental health. Such a possibility is provided for in the Minister of Health’s procedure, which was approved taking into account the recommendations of the Seimas Ombudsman Augustinas Normantas.
Mr. Normantas did not hide the fact that the implementation of this recommendation required a great deal of perseverance, but is pleased that the finally adopted legislation will enable people to be involuntary hospitalized to see the need for such hospitalization, as additional findings will be provided by three psychiatrists.
“This Description of the Additional Mental Health Assessment Procedure is like a small breakthrough in mental health care. We have been calling on the institutions responsible for these changes since 2018, when the Law on Mental Health Care of the Republic of Lithuania was amended. On each occasion, we have consistently reminded of the importance of enabling a person in involuntary hospitalization, whose consent is not respected, to re-examine the proportionality of the decision initiated by listening to the opinion of independent psychiatrists. We can be pleased that today such a procedure is finally provided for,” pointed out the Seimas Ombudsman.
The Seimas Ombudsman notes that in assessing the country’s involuntary hospitalization procedure, he repeatedly emphasized the importance of the opinion of a psychiatrist independent of the institution that initiated the involuntary hospitalization procedure regarding the person under consideration for involuntary hospitalization. As a significant problem the Seimas Ombudsman identifies the fact that judges until now are not obliged to apply for an alternative opinion, asking to assess the need for involuntary hospitalization of a person.
“We called for the improvement of the Law on Mental Health Care, including the establishment of a procedure for the independent assessment of person’s state of mental health, so that the situation of vulnerable persons is not abused, their rights are guaranteed and appropriate mental health care is provided. Our aim is to achieve that courts would go beyond a formal assessment of documents submitted by a psychiatric institution. It is crucial that individuals to be involuntary hospitalized would have an additional opportunity to seek the views of independent psychiatrists. From now on, an additional assessment of the state of mental health will be performed by as many as three psychiatrists,” notes the Seimas Ombudsman, adding that this need was also highlighted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities when providing recommendations to Lithuania.
The Seimas Ombudsman is pleased that currently the Ministry of Health has approved the Description of the Additional Mental Health Assessment Procedure, which regulates the procedure for organizing and conducting the mental health assessment of involuntary hospitalized or involuntary treated patient of mental and behavioral disorders. Moreover, the individuals performing additional mental health assessment and the requirements imposed on them have also been identified.
The Seimas Ombudsmen protect a person‘s right to good public administration, securing human rights and freedoms, and supervise fulfilment by state authorities of their duty to properly serve the people. The Seimas Ombudsmen also conduct national prevention of torture in places of deprivation of liberty in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office is a national human rights institution accredited with an „A status“ by the United Nations.