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Queen's Speech Calls For Controversial Disability Legal Reforms
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 24, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--In her annual speech given Thursday, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said that the government of the United Kingdom would push forward on controversial reforms aimed at people with disabilities.

One of those is a proposed Mental Health Bill, the current draft of which would effectively force some people with mental illness to stay in their homes.

Mental health professionals, users of mental health services, and service providers have condemned the measure, because it could require people receiving services in the community to follow a certain code of conduct, and for caregivers to become their enforcers, or risk incarceration in psychiatric hospitals.

The draft is currently going through pre-legislative revisions and is scheduled to be published at the end of March 2005. It is expected to be enacted in 2007.

Another controversial measure the Queen announced is the Mental Capacity Bill which would establish "living wills" for patients to make advance decisions to refuse treatment.

The Bill reportedly would allow patients with mental disabilities to choose a person to make decisions about their treatment and welfare. It would establish a way of determining a person's capacity to make a particular decision at a given time.

The measure would also make it a crime for anyone to purposely neglect or abuse a person who lacks capacity, with a maximum sentence of five years.

Advocates have opposed such legislation over concerns that it might lead to legalizing assisted suicide or euthanasia. Recent court decisions regarding euthanasia, particularly regarding small children, have been opposed by disability and right-to-life advocates.

The Queen said that the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission would all be merged to create a Commission for Equality and Human Rights -- a move that is intended to give greater legal protections for people with disabilities.

Related:
"Mental health reform a priority" (BBC News)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4034963.stm
"Government reiterates plan to extend compulsory care" (Guardian)
http://www.inclusiondaily.com/news/04/red/1124a.htm

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