Who is responsible for suicide in human rights era



Publication Details

Garg, V., Pai, N. B., Malesu, R. & Garg, H. (2012). Who is responsible for suicide in human rights era. RANZCP 2012: New Zealand Conference: Winds of Change - Nga hau karure: Integrated Care (pp. 33-34). New Zealand: The Conference Company.


Background: In our day to day clinical mental health practice, we make a number of decisions for the patients in their best interest. We are accountable for our actions and held responsible for the outcomes. Death of psychiatry patients both by suicide is a serious incident that has significant impact on the mental health of the professionals. The 21st Century is described as the era of human rights. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) has given considerable rights to the mentally ill patients. The States like Australia and NZ who are signatories for the CRPD, are bound to honor the rights of people with mental disability. Where is the balance between duty of care and the rights of the persons with mental disability? Where should the accountability and responsibility of mental health professional end, when working in human rights oriented services? Objectives/ Methods: We bring an international human rights perspective that has long lasting influence on national mental health strategy, mental health legislations and mental health framework. We give some real life examples of patients completing suicides, to illustrate these issues. Findings: The international human rights perspective has addressed the issues that mentally ill people experienced such as, inequality, discrimination, lack of opportunity, and has moved clearly towards social inclusion and citizenship. However, this has shifted the human rights balance towards patients autonomy, through influencing mental health legislation and guardianship legislations. However, when patients commit suicide there are a number of complex investigations, such as root Cause Analysis, departmental level and many more ultimately leading to Coroner investigation. The process is quite stressful for mental health professional and patients family alike and cause symptoms suggestive of PTSD. Conclusions: There is a fine balance between duty of care principle that mental health professionals follows and human rights framework that the legal professional works on. Anything said and done, the best interest of the patients counts. At the end, the question remains: Who decides the best interest-lawyers and judges or mental health professionals.

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