The UN POSITION ON
FORCED PSYCHIATRIC TREATMENT
Powerlessness and the doctrine of “medical necessity”
1. Patients in health-care settings are reliant on health-care workers who provide them services. As the previous Special Rapporteur stated: “Torture, as the most serious violation of the human right to personal integrity and dignity, presupposes a situation of powerlessness, whereby the victim is under the total control of another person.”
Deprivation of legal capacity, when a person‟s exercise of decision-making is taken away and given to others, is one such circumstance, along with deprivation of liberty in prisons or other places (A/63/175, para.
32. The mandate has recognized that medical treatments of an intrusive and irreversible nature, when lacking a therapeutic purpose, may constitute torture or ill-treatment when enforced or administered without the free and informed consent of the person concerned (ibid., paras. 40, 47). This is particularly the case when intrusive and irreversible, nonconsensual treatments are performed on patients from marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities, notwithstanding claims of good intentions or medical necessity. For example, the mandate has held that the discriminatory character of forced psychiatric interventions, when committed against persons with psychosocial disabilities, satisfies both intent and purpose required under the article 1 of the Convention against Torture, notwithstanding claims of “good intentions” by medical professionals (ibid., paras. 47, 48). In other examples, the administration of non-consensual medication or involuntary