The terrible anomaly of deaths in mental health detention
originally by: The Observer
published: 3 June 2012
The death of Janey Antoniou (“Campaign calls for open investigations into deaths of mental health patients”, News) brought into sharp focus the serious anomaly that exists when someone dies in mental health detention.
Unlike deaths in police or prison custody, where the inquest is based on the investigation conducted by an independent body, no such equivalent independent mechanism exists. It is unjust that institutions responsible for the care of mentally ill people should not be subject to the same scrutiny given to other forms of state detention.
In 2004, the parliamentary joint committee on human rights recommended that there should be an independent body to investigate the deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Earlier this year, the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that no single person or agency is responsible for investigating deaths in mental health settings and this was a key area needing improvement.
The government must urgently address this gap to ensure proper public scrutiny and to protect lives and prevent deaths in the future.
Helen Shaw and Deborah Coles, co-directors, Inquest; Paul Jenkins, chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness; Paul Farmer, chief executive, Mind; Shami Chakrabarti, director, Liberty; Roger Smith, director, Justice; Matilda MacAttram, director, Black Mental Health UK
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