Chinese lawmakers reviewed the draft version of the nation's Mental Health Law on Tuesday for the third time. The law is expected to not only protect mentally-challenged people's legal rights but also help solve some other public safety problems.
It is right for China to provide this group of people with free essential medicines and subsidies for hospital stays. This law should stipulate these services as an obligation for the authorities and as a right for the mentally-challenged.
China has about 16 million people who are seriously mentally-challenged. In some provinces, only 1 percent of such people have access to free treatment with essential medicines. Most of their medical treatment expenses are shouldered by their families, and many mentally-challenged people lack basic care and help.
It is advisable to combine appropriate work with treatment for such people, because research shows that suitable work can help them to recover. The authorities must strengthen their supervision and regulation of this process. The new law is expected to cover this and serve as a legal basis for the authorities and treatment providers to fulfill their duties.
The law should also prevent the mentally-challenged from becoming a threat to the public, as there have been several cases recently where mentally-challenged people have injured innocent passers-by. Supervisors of the mentally-challenged, families or medical agencies should take more responsibility for harm inflicted in this way.
Compulsory treatment is another challenge for the law. Many developed countries and regions have passed laws on non-voluntary treatment.
For example, in the United States, laws in some states rule clearly on the type of mentally-challenged people who can be given compulsory treatment. If relevant rules are enforced properly, this is an effective way to protect the mentally-challenged and the public.