Christine is detained in a mental health hospital and is in a relationship with another patient, Anthony. Christine asks her doctor, Simone, if she can meet with Anthony inside the hospital. Simone refuses, saying that she thinks the risks are too high as it might be detrimental to their wellbeing. The hospital’s policy is based on risk management and prohibits any sexual activity. Christine is upset and feels it is detrimental to her well-being not to see Anthony. She has an Independent Mental Health Advocate, Daniel, who had been trained by BIHR. Daniel speaks to Simone, explaining that the decision is interfering with the couple’s right to private and family life (Article 8 in the Human Rights Act). Whilst this right could be restricted by the hospital to protect their wellbeing, the response still needs to be proportionate. Daniel points out that the decision to refuse all meetings seems disproportionate and that the relationship could improve Christine’s well-being. Simone dismisses this and refers back to the hospital’s policy.

Daniel meets the Clinical Service Manager to discuss the couple’s human rights. As a result the hospital agree to reassess their decision. Balancing the risk to the couple’s well-being and their right to private and family life, it is agreed that the couple can meet on the ward. They can have physical contact during the meetings and this could increase over time (working towards joint leave away from the hospital). The hospital also changed its policy on relationships. It now refers to balancing human rights and risk.

Example from BIHR’s protect Care and Support: A Human Rights Approach to Advocacy

This story is also shared in BIHR's booklet Mental Health, Mental Capacity: Raising a Human Rights Issue