Excluding autism or excluding everything? The problem of broad definitions in the England and Wales Draft Mental Health Bill

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The recent Draft Mental Health Bill for England and Wales proposes changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 which will include, for the first time, a legal definition of autism. This article explores the specific potential issue that the definition, owing to its breadth, potentially encompasses a number of conditions other than autism, consequently leaving the definitionally dependent concept of 'psychiatric disorder' significantly narrowed in scope. The potential implications of this - primarily the concern that a range of other conditions and presentations could be unintentionally excluded from the scope of the civil powers in the Mental Health Act - are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-191
Number of pages5
JournalBJPsych Bulletin
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • autism spectrum disorders
  • comorbidity
  • consent and capacity
  • in-patient treatment
  • Psychiatry and law

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