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Coercive Community Treatment in Mental Health: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed?

S. Callaghan, G. Newton-Howes,

Academic Literature


Community treatment orders (CTOs) emerged in the 1970s as an innovative, "less restrictive" alternative to involuntary inpatient orders for people with chronic and severe mental illness. Now, after three decades of practice, numerous studies have concluded that CTOs do not achieve their main clinical aims, while involuntary orders in mental health continue to be strongly criticised in light of the requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The question now arises whether CTOs are still a justifiable option for treatment. This article reviews the history and features of community treatment orders in Australia and New Zealand, concluding that the CTO system was based on goals that were both normatively and epistemically flawed. In light of these facts, the article argues that CTOs can no longer be justified if the goals of non-discrimination and supported decision-making enshrined in the Convention are to be taken seriously by states parties.

Publication information

Journal/Publication : Journal of Law and Medicine

Domain/s: Community and civic participation

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