Monitoring Long-Term Court Order Psychiatric Hospitalization: A Pilot Project in Israel
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2006 March; 25(1): 83-99
BACKGROUND: In Israel, the rules of compulsory psychiatric hospitalization, including hospitalization under a court order, are set out in the Israel Mental Health Act, 1991 (MHA). The MHA does not specifically define the time limits of hospitalization by Court Order, though every patient, by law has to be brought before the Regional Psychiatric Board (RPB) once every six months for reevaluation. The Supreme Court recently addressed this issue and suggested that by having no specific time span, the way lies open for infringement of individual rights (Criminal Appeals 3854\02). Consequently the Supreme Court suggested that some court committed patients should be moved from the criminal to the civil track which inflicts less severe infringement of the mentally ill patient's rights. This ruling generated rethinking at the ministerial level aimed at improving the monitoring of the care of long-term psychiatric hospitalization in criminal cases. The Ministry of Health initiated a project designed to study this issue. OBJECTIVES: The main objective of this project, which is described below, is to monitor the type and incidence of forensic mental patients hospitalized in Israel for more than 10 years, and to propose alternatives to replace this untenable situation. METHODS: All the 12 psychiatric hospitals in Israel which hospitalize forensic patients were sent written requests for data on criminal patients hospitalized under court orders, including demographic data, diagnosis and type of offense. We identified in all 65 such patients. The data received were compared with the National Psychiatric Register databank of the Ministry of Health and divided in subgroups according to diagnosis, type of offence, demographic variables and length of hospitalization. RESULTS: Most of the subjects of the sample (89%) suffered from psychotic disorder mainly schizophrenia of the paranoid type. 95.5% were male. The most prominent type of offense was assault against family members (37%), which is in keeping with statistics reported in the relevant literature. The profile of the typical patient of this sample is: male, aged 45-65, unmarried, with 8 years of education and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. DISCUSSION: No correlation between type and severity of offense and length of involuntary forensic hospitalization was found. We suggest some possible alternatives to improve the current handling of the group of long term hospitalized forensic patients. We also feel that a further study should be carried out on forensic patients hospitalized for a period of five to ten years.
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