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J Public Health Med. 1990 Feb;12(1):9-14.

Section 47 and its use with mentally disordered people.

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St Thomas's Hospital, London.


This paper reports a survey of implementations of Section 47 of the National Assistance Act (1948) in four Regional Health Authorities between 1983 and 1986. The majority of those compulsorily removed from their homes under the Section were elderly people in poor physical health suffering from a major psychiatric disorder. The initial mortality was very high, and 41 per cent of the sample died within three months of removal. There is no mechanism for appeal or review for people removed under Section 47. The Mental Health Act (1983), which does have these safeguards, could have been used in many of these instances, but was not because of misunderstandings about its scope and poor liaison between geriatric and psychiatric services. It is recommended that the Mental Health Act should be used where it is appropriate and that Section 47 should be reformed to provide an equivalent protection of civil liberties.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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