BEIJING, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- A draft law on mental health, tabled for its second reading on Monday, includes provisions to protect the privacy of the mentally ill and their right to protest.
The draft law was submitted at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, after its first reading in October last year.
According to the draft law, institutions and individuals should protect the privacy of mentally ill people by preventing leaks of private information, such as their names, addresses and employment status, unless the sharing of such information is necessary for institutions and individuals while exercising their lawful duties.
The draft also allows patients and their relatives to lodge lawsuits against the government, medical institutions and individuals if they feel their legal rights have been harmed.
The draft is expected to eliminate abuses regarding compulsory mental health treatment and protect citizens from undergoing unnecessary treatment or illegal hospitalization.
Under the draft law, every mental illness diagnosis should be made by a qualified psychiatrist. Patients who are diagnosed with a severe mental illness and have the potential to harm themselves or others should be sent for compulsory inpatient treatment, the draft says.
The first version of the draft law states that if patients or their relatives do not agree with the diagnosis, they may ask for a second opinion, as well as request the services of judicial experts up to two times, before compulsory treatment is enforced.
In the current version, patients and their relatives can turn to any qualified medical institution for a reevaluation of their condition, instead of relying only on judicial experts who specialize in mental illness.
China currently has about 16 million people suffering from severe mental disorders, according to the Ministry of Health.
However, the country only has about 20,000 registered psychiatrists, or 15 psychiatrists for every 1 million sufferers. The number of mental health institutions and doctors lags far behind the demand.
In its current version, the bill requires the government to provide special support for mental illness treatment in rural and poverty-stricken regions and provide more funding for medical facilities at the community and village level.
The bill also calls for the government to improve the training of medical workers in the mental health field and boost their pay and benefits.