What is the Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act?

The Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act (Dutch: Wvggz) deals with the rights of people who are required to receive compulsory care because of a psychological condition.

Who does the Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act apply to?

The Wvggz applies to people in whom a psychological disorder results in behaviour that can lead to serious harm for themselves or for others. If voluntary care to eliminate serious harm is not possible, a judge can impose a compulsory medical care order. There are obligatory conditions for compulsory medical care. It can only be imposed if it is:

  • the only way of eliminating serious harm;
  • proportionate (not excessive for the serious harm that needs to be resolved);
  • effective (yielding results).

The Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act (Wvggz) is not for people with intellectual disabilities or dementia; the Care and Compulsion (Psychogeriatric and Intellectually Disabled Persons) Act (Dutch: Wzd) applies to them from 2020 onwards.

Procedures

The Wvggz has two procedures that can result in compulsory medical care:

The patient’s influence

The patient retains control as much as possible during the entire period of compulsory medical care, for example using their own action plan, a care card or a self-binding declaration. Health professionals must discuss things regularly with the patient and evaluate the care together.

Patients are entitled to receive an explanation in understandable language. If necessary, an interpreter will be available at the hearing. A patient advocate can provide support and make recommendations, standing up for the patient’s rights together with them.

Participation (being part of society)

During the compulsory medical care period, attention must always be paid to the patient’s participation in society. They must therefore be able to continue to be part of society as much as possible or be prepared for rebuilding their life within society after the treatment.

Involvement of the family

Family members and others who are directly affected will soon be able to be more involved in the decision as to whether compulsory medical care is needed and how to implement it. Family confidants will provide advice and give support to family members of patients receiving compulsory medical care and others who are directly affected.

Compulsory medical care

The new Act focuses primarily on preventing compulsory medical care as far as possible and – if that is impossible – using coercion to a minimum and reducing it as quickly as possible. In the case of compulsory medical care for children and young people, extra attention is paid to potential negative consequences on the mental and physical development in the longer term.

Commencement date

The Compulsory Mental Healthcare Act (Wvggz) came into effect on 1 January 2020, together with the Care and Compulsion (Psychogeriatric and Intellectually Disabled Persons) Act (Wzd). During 2020, transitional law will apply for authorisations that were applied for or issued before 1 January 2020.