J Korean Neuropsychiatr Assoc.  2010 Mar;49(2):157-162.

Review of Articles on Psychiatric Hospitalization in Mental Health Act

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Ulsan, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea. jphong@amc.seoul.kr


The Mental Health Act is an initiative aimed at changing and shaping mental health services and protecting human rights of persons with mental disorders. Since its legislation in 1995, four amendments have been made to the Act according to issues related to public concerns. Despite this Act, debate remains surrounding the human rights protection of the mentally ill. Further, Supreme Court precedents have been set related to the Mental Health Act. This study aimed to provide information regarding hospitalization procedures in the Mental Health Act with some lawsuits. Although annual numbers of patients involuntarily hospitalized have not been reported, it has been estimated that a small percentage of these individuals have are given review relating to the appropriateness of their hospitalization. The conditions set forth regarding involuntary admission in the Korean Mental Health Act are so inclusive and obscure that courts have had to request more evidence related to the inevitability of hospitalization in ensuing lawsuits. Involuntary hospitalizations in Korea are regarded as private contracts between hospitals and the family of mentally ill patients. Therefore, it is critical when patients are involuntarily hospitalized under the Mental Health Act, that others are not punished for illegal detention. Since the Protection of Personal Liberty Act took effect in 2009, most related lawsuits have been in regard to hospitalized patients in psychiatric facilities. Balancing the right to be treated and the right to refuse treatment is complex and intricate. More resources need to put into mental health to improve the protection of human rights in mentally ill patients in Korea.


Mental Health Law; Hospitalization; Human rights
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