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China passes law to curb abuse of mental hospitals

BEIJING -- China's legislature on Friday passed a long-awaited mental health law that aims to prevent people from being involuntarily held and unnecessarily treated in psychiatric facilities — abuses that have been used against government critics and triggered public outrage.

The law standardizes mental health care services, requiring general hospitals to set up special outpatient clinics or provide counseling, and calls for the training of more doctors.

The law states for the first time that mental health exainations and treatment must be conducted on a voluntary basis, unless a person is considered a danger to himself or others. Only psychiatrists have the authority to commit people to hospitals for treatment, and treatment may be compulsory for patients diagnosed with a severe mental illness, according to the law.

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