Judge rules doctors were legally entitled to take blood

Girl asked judge to declare that the law under which she is detained is unconstitutional

Mr Justice George Bermingham said the regime best serves the girl’s interests.
Photograph: Eric Luke

Mr Justice George Bermingham said the regime best serves the girl’s interests. Photograph: Eric Luke

Sat, Nov 9, 2013, 01:00

Doctors are legally entitled to take blood samples from a teenage psychiatric patient against her will in the circumstances where she has threatened to take her own life, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice George Birmingham granted permission to the HSE last January to take the samples, which the girl had refused to provide. Doctors said the taking of samples was necessary to guard against the development of very serious side effects from anti-psychotic medication prescribed for the girl.

The 16 year old was detained in a psychiatric hospital in 2012 under the Mental Health Act following an application to court by the HSE. She was initially admitted following a suicide attempt.

She has been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder and continues to be detained under court order because she remains at high risk of suicide, the judge said.

After the HSE got court permission to take blood samples against her will, the girl, through her court-appointed guardian, asked the judge to declare that the law under which she is detained – section 25.6 of the Mental Health Act 2001 – is unconstitutional and incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. She also asked the court to declare unlawful the forcible administration of treatment and use of physical restraint to effect that.

In his judgment on those proceedings yesterday, the judge said making such declarations would not be appropriate and would not provide “any practical advantage” for the girl.

“There is every reason to believe the regime to which [she] is subject serves her best interests,” he said.

He also said the girl would have every opportunity to air concerns she had in relation to her treatment when her detention is reviewed in the District Court and would also be able to do so before the High Court.