Legal Aspects of Psychiatric Care in the Republic of Armenia

On May 25, 2004 the Republic of Armenia adopted the Law “On Mental Health Care,” which protects the rights of persons with mental disorders. There are not a few social problems in our country, which cause many mental disorders. Besides these problems, there are not a few factors which have influenced the mental state of the Armenian people. Such factors include, for example, the earthquake in 1988, the Karabakh war, which in passive form continues to this day, the departure of one of the parents to another country in search of a job, etc.

Based on the principles of law, humanism and protection of human rights, established by the basic law of our country – the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, mental health care must be provided to persons suffering from mental disorders.

Article 5 of the above mentioned RA Law defines what the mental health protection of the citizens of the RA includes. First, the improvement of mental health and the prevention of mental disorders. Secondly, the provision of the necessary versatile and accessible medical care, care and other forms of assistance to persons suffering from mental disorders. Thirdly, the formation of an appropriate public attitude towards persons suffering from mental disorders, first of all, tolerance, kindness, which, according to articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, excludes any kind of discrimination.

Persons with mental disabilities may enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia equally with other citizens of the Republic of Armenia.

Any mentally ill person should be socially protected by the law in our country so that he/she could feel the full value of the Armenian society.

In Part 3 of Article 6 of the RA Law “On Mental Health Care”, the Armenian legislator enumerates the rights of those people. In particular, such persons have the right to meet with visitors, to receive legal assistance, to receive information concerning them in their native language or another language that they understand, to choose their own psychiatrist, to exercise their right to health care, etc.

Such persons may exercise their rights either in person or through a legal representative within the territory of the Republic of Armenia (Article 6(5) of the RA Law “On Psychiatric Assistance”).

The Armenian State guarantees psychiatric emergency care, consultation, diagnosis, treatment and social rehabilitation both in hospital and outpatient settings (Article 7 of Chapter 3 of the Law “On Psychiatric Assistance”).

The subject of psychiatric care in Armenia is a psychiatrist with higher medical education. It is worth mentioning that the psychiatrist has full independence in making his decisions, as well as being guided by a sense of duty in the medical field (Article 12 of the Law “On Psychiatric Assistance”).

According to Article 13 of the law considered by us, the patient and his legal representative may, within the framework of the law, require the psychiatrist to provide them with information relating directly to the patient.

The psychiatrist will only start treatment of a person suffering from a mental disorder if the patient or his/her legal representative submits a written application, otherwise the psychiatrist has no right to provide this kind of care to the person suffering from a mental disorder.

In practice, there are not uncommon cases where the treatment of such a person in a psychiatric direction can be carried out without the consent of the patient or with only the consent of the legal representative, i.e. the person may be subjected to compulsory hospitalization, in relation to it may be applied compulsory measures of medical nature.

If the person or his legal representative does not want to use the psychiatric services and be cured, they have the right to refuse the proposed medical care. However, when refusing treatment, the psychiatrist is obliged to explain the possibility of the occurrence of relevant consequences in the future as a result of the termination of treatment. The refusal is to be obligatory fixed in the medical documents, signed by the person (legal representative) and the psychiatrist, as required by the Armenian legislator (Art. 16 of the Law “On Psychiatric Assistance”).

The hospitalization of the person in a psychiatric unit is possible within the framework of the law either on a voluntary or involuntary basis.

Chapter 5 of the Law “On Psychiatric Assistance” defines the grounds and the order of the voluntary hospitalization of the RA citizen.

The grounds for hospitalization in a psychiatric department are, firstly, the presence of a mental disorder, secondly, a medical opinion of a psychiatrist, and thirdly, the need for a psychiatric expertise, if it is required by our Armenian legislation (Article 18 of the RA Law “On Psychiatric Assistance”).

As for the procedure of involuntary hospitalization, it is regulated by Article 22 of Chapter 6 of the Law “On Psychiatric Assistance,” which sets out a list of cases in which a person can be subject to involuntary hospitalization, that is, without the consent of the patient or his legal representatives.

The Armenian legislator considers as such juridical facts the cases in which the person is a danger to himself or others, or when the failure or termination of the treatment may worsen the patient’s health condition.

Based on all of the aforementioned, we can conclude that the RA Law “On Mental Health Care” adequately protects the rights of people with mental disorders. However, this is not enough, because the public funds of the Republic of Armenia allocated for their maintenance are catastrophically insufficient, expensive medicines for such persons cannot be afforded by medical institutions, which leads to the infringement of the rights of such persons.

In case of violation of the rights of a person suffering from mental disorders by the persons concerned, it is necessary to apply to a judicial body of the Republic of Armenia for full protection of his/her rights and interests.

The person suffering from mental disorder or his/her legal representative has to submit a claim to the judicial authority of the Republic of Armenia.

But if you have applied to a qualified attorney, he is responsible for the whole matter from the filing of the claim to the entry into force of the court decision, and therefore he has the right to file a claim for you and to protect your rights before the Court of the Republic of Armenia․