Mentally-ill have right to privacy, religion: MoH


An official document has revealed that mentally-ill patients in Saudi Arabia enjoy the freedom of religion besides acknowledgement and recognition as legal people before the law, with the rights to visitations, communication and privacy.

The document, issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH), warned against exploiting the mentally ill and their health situations for clinical or medication trials without their consent, except those patients who cannot give consent with full awareness.

In the latter case, any clinical or medication trials must be done after acquiring the approval of a special panel formed for this regard, a local publication reported.

The document stipulates that if a mentally-ill patient lives in a mental health institution or asylum his/her environment must be as close as possible to the normal and natural conditions of everyday life.

It also emphasizes that mental health institutions or asylums must contain facilities for entertainment activities, education and shopping that enable the patient to be involved in some activity. The patients should not be forced under any circumstances to work against their will.

The document confirms that some of the principles for the admission of the mentally ill to asylums include making all efforts possible to avoid admission against their will. It also says that the mentally-ill person admitted to an asylum against his will can leave at any time he/she chooses, unless the criteria to admit a patient to an asylum against his will applies in this case.

The document stresses that a person cannot be admitted to a mental health institution against his will nor can he/she be kept inside unless a qualified and legally licensed doctor in the field of mental health decides on the matter.

There are exceptions in the document concerning holding mentally-ill patients in asylums against their will: In such cases, a specialized doctor must confirm that the patient poses a hazard to his/her life or to others if left without treatment and medical care, and keeping him outside the mental institution might cause his health condition to deteriorate. A second doctor specializing in the mental health field must be consulted to confirm his mental condition.


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