Monday, 21 September 2015

Writing a Journal in Hospital

Well, my medical law course has started - the distance learning aspect of it, in that I have begun reading some material that has been sent out to 'us students' - mostly case law. I just came across some mental health cases and was reading about consent to treatment, capacity and so on.  As a once-patient I know how hard it is to convince people who are convinced otherwise that you are not in fact, mad...  The thing that I will always remember is being told that I had to take anti-psychotics after my third child was born.  I was not mentally ill in any way but a doctor who had never met me before decided that I was and I knew from previous experience that there was no point arguing.

And I also remember (and am sure I have written here before about it) a psychiatric nurse friend telling me that when she was a trainee in hospital, she was in a ward round with a consultant and some other mental health workers and a young man was brought in who seemed to be catatonic.  The consultant stated that he wished to start ECT, at which the chap woke up from his 'trance' and started shouting, 'No, no, not ECT!' and so on and so forth until he was removed from the room (and probably then forcibly sedated).  The consultant turned to my friend, who was understandably alarmed at this  development and said to her, 'Don't worry, we'll just say that he doesn't have capacity to consent'. 

This is how the mental health law operates in practice.  It is intended to protect the rights of the patient but all too often it fails.  Of course, professionals might say they knew the ECT would benefit this particular patient and so on...I won't go into all that here because I hope I have said enough to make my point.

Anyway, what I would like to say to anyone who is in hospital now, or who may be in the future - keep a journal of your thoughts and experiences!  I wrote one after the birth of my first child when I was hospitalised - I used to leave it open on a table in my room and I often saw the nurses reading it.  I am sure that it played an important part in the fact that I was eventually allowed to leave the hospital and to keep my child, because it was evidence that my thought processes were rational at least some of the time, despite what anybody else observed or considered about me.

I am going to tweet about this too later - maybe it is an obvious point, but reading about the administration of justice makes me want to play a part in it!  The trouble is, justice is a complex thing.  The case that set me off thinking about capacity was awful, involving a patient in Broadmoor who had committed the most heinous crime.  I have said before that I would not wish involuntary mental health treatment on my worst enemy but I might make an exception in the case of this person and others who have offended in similar ways.  Which is why I think mental health and criminal justice should not be confused, as I have said before.  But how would or could they be disentangled after all this time? 

It is a huge subject area.  In a way it might be better for me not to concentrate on mental health law because I still get riled by it - although at my age it would probably be good to be involved in things I feel strongly about.  Why waste time on things I don't care about?  Fortunately, all the cases and other material I have been reading over the last week on different topics are very interesting too, so if and when I do specialise in one subject (at least for my dissertation) I will have loads of choice.

Right, am off now...  But remember, if you or anyone you know is or may be in a mental hospital ever - keep a written record while you are there of what is happening to you and what you are thinking.  You can always destroy it later, but it may prove to be a very valuable resource.  Apart from anything else, writing things down helps you think clearly (I knew that already but read it recently too, in a book of advice written for law students.  I am taking my new studies very seriously, you see!)

Right, am definitely off now. 

No comments:

Post a Comment