Dalhousie Law Journal


Psychiatric legislation, new developments, mental illness, treatment, archaic, health legislation.


Depsite advanced developments in the treatment of mental illness, Nova Scotia has until recently possessed some very archaic mental health legislation. The law treated the mentally ill patient differently depending on the institution in which he happened to be placed regardless of his diagnosis. Patients in general hospitals for psychiatric disorders fell within the jurisdiction of the Public Hospitals Act, and were treated no differently than physically ill patients. 1 Patients who were sent to the Nova Scotia Hospital, a psychiatric institution owned by the province fell within the Nova Scotia Hospital Act.2 It contained provisions on compulsory and voluntary admission, quite different from those under the Public Hospitals Act, where compulsory admission was not possible. The criteria for compulsory detention and treatment under the Nova Scotia Hospital Act were broad. It was necessary for the patient to be considered to have a mental disorder and that he should be admitted to the Nova Scotia Hospital, either because he required the in-patient facilities for observation, diagnosis or treatment, or that he required care that could not adequately be provided outside the hospital for his own health or safety, or for the protection of others. In addition, it was necessary that the patient, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, be certified because his mental status and lack of insight was such that he did not understand or was unwilling to accept the fact that he required admission to the hospital. Two medical certificates stating these factors were required.