Century-old law calling people with a mental illness “lunatics” will take six months to replace

Legislation that replaces a century-old law calling people with a mental illness “lunatics” will take six months to fully implement, it has emerged.

Inclusion Ireland said the six-month timeframe for commencing all aspects of the legislation would delay people with intellectual disabilities getting the support they needed to articulate their decision-making.

The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013, passed by the Dáil this week, repeals the Victorian-era Lunacy Regulation (Ireland) Act 1871 and the Marriage of Lunatics Act 1811.

Inclusion Ireland welcomed the legislation but was disappointed that it would take six months to commence all aspects of it.

While it acknowledged it would take time to create a new agency within the Mental Health Commission, it wanted the director of the decision support service to be recruited immediately so that much-needed public awareness work could start.

Sage, a support and advocacy group for older people, said the legislation would address the use of chemical restraint that had become “normalised”.

Former Law Reform Commission and chair of Sage’s advisory committee, Patricia Clarke, said chemical restraint was being used to effectively deprive people of their liberty instead of addressing underlying clinical issues.

“It is being used as a first rather than a last resort,” said Ms Clarke.

The Alzheimer Society said the welcome legislation would provide the legal guidance to uphold the autonomy and dignity of the person with dementia.

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