Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into English law.
The convention gives citizens various rights which might impact on health services, including:
- Article 2 - the Right to Life
- Article 3 - Prohibition of torture
- Article 5 - the Right to Liberty and Security (including not to be taken to a hospital without consent)
- Article 8 - the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life
- Article 9 - Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion
- Article 10 - Freedom of Expression
- Article 14 - Prohibition of Discrimination
All of the above rights, however, are hedged around with caveats and exceptions so that, for example, the right to liberty states that No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and accordance with a procedure prescribed by law.... It then goes on to list a number of exceptions, including: the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants.
This is far more inclusive than the Mental Health Act, and also permits the detention of people under the Public Health Act 1984 and Section 47 of the National Assistance Act 1948 - at least in some cases.