Duke wrongly sectioned, says Dowager Duchess of Hamilton

The Duke of Hamilton's widow is calling for a change in the law on holding people in psychiatric hospitals

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The Duke of Hamilton's widow has called for a change in the law so people cannot be held in psychiatric hospitals on the orders of just two people.

It follows the detention of her husband in 2009 shortly before his death.

Under Scotland's Mental Health Act, someone with a mental illness can be detained against their will if a doctor and a mental health officer agree that they suffer from a mental disorder.

However, this must be for the maximum benefit of the individual.

It should also respect the wishes of their relatives or carer.

In England two doctors have to sign detention certificates along with an approved mental health professional allocated by the social work department, the equivalent of a mental health officer.

Campaigners in Scotland have called for Scotland's Act to be changed so that any forced detentions have to be approved by a panel of experts.

'Calling for me'

The Hamilton dukedom is the third oldest in the UK and the most senior title in Scotland, dating from 1643. The family's seat is Lennoxlove House in East Lothian.

In 2009, the Duke of Hamilton had been suffering with dementia and was being cared for at home by the duchess and her staff.

The Duke of Hamilton died in 2010 The Duke of Hamilton died in 2010

But a psychiatrist had suggested they go to hospital to check the duke's medication.

The Dowager Duchess of Hamilton said she was led to believe this would just be for a few days but after she filled in an admissions form she was told her husband had actually been sectioned for 28 days.

"He was really upset," she said.

"I could hear him calling for me: 'Kay', 'Kay'.

"I said, 'It's alright pet. You're here voluntarily, you can come home if you want to'.

"Then a voice behind said, 'No he can't. He's been sectioned for 28 days and he may not get out then'."

When the Duchess returned the next day she noticed the duke's speech was slurred and he was suddenly having difficulty walking, due to anti-psychotics she believes were unnecessarily prescribed.

A few days later, when she had to leave for the evening, she looked back to see him trying to escape from a first floor window.

"He rushed out into my arms saying, 'home!' and then they had to pull him away from me.

"I thought, if this can happen to the Duke of Hamilton, what chance has Joe Bloggs got?"

'Hastened death'

The Duchess managed to have her husband discharged on a 'pass' on condition that she arranged 24-hour care for him at home.

She believes the whole episode hastened his death.

The chief executive of Scotland's mental health watchdog, the Mental Welfare Commission, says Scotland's mental health laws are internationally respected and the system for forcibly detaining people is fair providing it is properly followed.

"The most important thing if you're detained under mental health legislation is that you're given a proper explanation of why you're detained and what your rights are," said Dr Donald Lyons.

"It's important you get an explanation in writing of why the doctor thinks the criteria for compulsory treatment have been met.

"There's good argument that this should also be given to the 'named person' - your primary carer, nearest relative or the person you have appointed.

"We've made recommendations on that and we're awaiting a response from the Scottish government as to what they're going to do when they conduct a limited review of the act next year."

The duke's medication was never changed - despite this being the reason for his admission to hospital.

The duchess is calling on the Scottish Parliament to change the law.

"Please look at this act and implement something to prevent this happening," she said.

"I know there are so many patients in these circumstances."

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