Sun, Oct 19, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Mental patients to be given choice on getting treatment

NEW CHOICES The Department of Health is reviewing rules that require mental health patients to receive treatment for their illness whether they want it or not


Mental patients may soon be allowed to refuse medical treatment, according to a senior health official.

"Currently, patients with severe mental disorders have no choice but to receive medical treatment," said Department of Health Deputy Minister Lee Long-teng (李龍騰). "It is important that patients aren't a threat to society, but the patient should also have the right to refuse treatment. A balance has to be struck."

Lee said the new policy would initially affect only five hospitals.

"Psychiatric centers cannot be used to lock patients away from society," Lee said. "Doctors should serve as consultants to patients, helping the patient decide whether medical treatment is the best way to enable healthy interaction within the societal context.

"Furthermore, for more severe cases where medical treatment is necessary, the hospital's policies should allow doctors and patients to re-evaluate the situation, after the patient attains a level of stability, whether to continue treatment," Lee said.

Lee spoke at an auction organized by the Mental Health Foundation to sell works of art created by mental health patients.

Lee stressed that art therapy is an alternative worth exploring.

Pointing to several paintings to be auctioned, Lee said, "A lot of the medication and treatments commonly used make it difficult for patients to produce art such as these displayed here. The art isn't just an outlet for patients, it's also a unique contribution to society."

Hu Wi-herng (胡維恆), a professor at the Taipei City Psychiatric Center, agreed with Lee.

"Many of the world's great artists suffered from mental disorders, but perhaps their work would have been impossible otherwise," Hu said. "Art is therapeutic because it gives the patients an outlet to express their emotions and experiences."

The Mental Health Foundation will put the money raised from the auction toward building a science museum devoted to the brain. The foundation raised NT$290,000 yesterday on the sale of five paintings.

Hu Hai-guo (胡海國), president of the Mental Health Foundation, explained that plans for the museum were still being considered but it would most likely be built in northern Taiwan within three to five years and include a center for public education.

"The human brain is something most people do not understand. This museum will educate the public and make it easier for people to be comfortable with the idea of mental-health treatment," said Hu Hai-guo.

He said that the brain is capable of withstanding only a limited amount of pressure, and even simple anxiety can lead to larger problems if not dealt with properly.

Bluntly stating that the aim of psychiatry is happiness, Hu Hai-guo said that one can pursue happiness only when physical and psychological health are attained.

"Psychology is too abstract sometimes. People need to have an understanding of how the brain physically functions. The museum will cover not only the physical and psychological aspects of the brain, it will also include the role that mental health plays in society," Hu Hai-guo said.

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