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Shanghai man uses new health law to win release from psychiatric hospital

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-12 08:52

A Shanghai man has been released from a psychiatric hospital, where he had been forced to stay since 2003, after a judicial appraisal showed that he had recovered from schizophrenia.

The 51-year-old Shanghai native, surnamed Xu, said a forensic science center of the Ministry of Justice found in July that he has full capacity for civil conduct, and the Shanghai Youth Psychiatric Rehabilitation Hospital has agreed to let him leave.

Xu had taken the hospital and his eldest brother Xu Canxing-who was acting as his guardian-to court several times for "infringing upon his right to personal liberty". It was seen as the first case involving a mental health law that required the patient's voluntary consent for hospitalization.

The law, which took effect on May 1, 2013, is viewed as a substantive step forward in protecting the rights and interests of people with mental health problems in China, where official figures showed there were 5.4 million people with serious mental problems registered at different health departments at the end of 2016.

In the past, the lack of due process in the application of forced hospitalization resulted in perfectly healthy people being sent to hospital by family members who find them disobedient or covet their property.

"After leaving the hospital, I will rent an apartment and lead a normal life with my girlfriend," said Xu, who was still living in the hospital so he could take care of his girlfriend, who is also staying at the institute and has applied to be discharged.

His guardian, Canxing, who Xu has accused of forcing him to be hospitalized to seize his legitimate share of an apartment inherited from their parents, said on Thursday that he will respect the forensic results.

"I never prevented him from leaving," the brother said. "I have a job and I don't have time to take care of him. Whether he can leave the hospital or not needs to be determined by the forensic authorities, not me."

Xu's lawyer, Yang Weihua, told China Daily that many people like Xu were filing lawsuits with mental health hospitals and their guardians, and they needed help.

In Xu's case, he was first sent to a regional hospital by his father and eldest brother for mental problems in 2001, when he persisted in appealing against the Australian immigration authority after he was repatriated to China for gambling and other misconduct.

In 2003, after a physical conflict with his father, Xu was sent to the privately-run Youth Psychiatric Rehabilitation Hospital and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In 2008, Xu's father died and his eldest brother was appointed his legal guardian. But Xu claimed his brother, unwilling to have Xu stay at the house left by their father, rejected his plea to leave the hospital, though he had obviously recovered.

The hospital also declined to discharge him without the consent of his brother.

Starting in 2012, Xu contacted lawyers and resorted to courts for help. He saw some hope after the mental health law was implemented.

However, he still lost two lawsuits against the hospital and his brother. Two previous forensic appraisals showed that he still had residual symptoms of schizophrenia, but it was not categorized as a "serious mental health problem".

The latest lawsuit, with the help of his lawyer, was launched in June. Yang said the court will announce its decision later this month.

He Qi in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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