Japanese Mental Health and Welfare Law
February 10, 2010 2:15 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find English translations (or, heck, even a Japanese version) of Japanese laws relating to mental illness and patients' rights?

I am an American with a Japanese friend who is currently in a mental institution in Japan. I have seen several references online [example] to a 1987 "Mental Health Law" (later revised to "Mental Health and Welfare Law") which seems to guarantee for Japanese mental health patients the right to receive visitors, write letters, and place telephone calls. (The hospital in question is not allowing any of these methods of contact.)

I haven't been able to find the actual text of the law, which I would like to read in English. Is there an online database or publication library somewhere that I'm not finding? Does anyone have experience in this area?

Also, are there any fluent Japanese speakers willing to do some Japanese googling to find the original Japanese text of the law? My spoken Japanese is passable. I'm certainly over my head when it comes to the legal language, but just having the text of the law in Japanese would be a great start.

Any other help or information would be quite welcome.
posted by Lirp to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Wikipedia believes that it is currently called 精神保健及び精神障害者福祉に関する法律.

This looks like it, and it's .go.jp so... I guess it's probably right?

This looks like a relevant section:

第五節 精神科病院における処遇等

第三十六条  精神科病院の管理者は、入院中の者につき、その医療又は保護に欠くことのできない限度において、その行動について必要な制限を行うことができる。
2  精神科病院の管理者は、前項の規定にかかわらず、信書の発受の制限、都道府県その他の行政機関の職員との面会の制限その他の行動の制限であつて、厚生労働大臣があらかじめ社会保障審議会の意見を聴いて定める行動の制限については、これを行うことができない。
3  第一項の規定による行動の制限のうち、厚生労働大臣があらかじめ社会保障審議会の意見を聴いて定める患者の隔離その他の行動の制限は、指定医が必要と認める場合でなければ行うことができない。

Especially part 2 sounds like what you're looking for.

Note: Not a lawyer, not your lawyer, just know how to read Japanese.
posted by No-sword at 4:30 AM on February 10, 2010

Well, here's the "e-Gov" link to the Act on Mental Health and Welfare for the Mentally Disabled (精神保健及び精神障害者福祉に関する法律) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Laws and Ordinances Data System (総務省法令データ提供システム, rough English translation mine). I think the second item under Article 36 Clause 5 is the one you're after, no? 「精神科病院の管理者は、前項の規定にかかわらず、信書の発受の制限、都道府県その他の行政機関の職員との面会の制限その他の行動の制限であつて、厚生労働大臣があらかじめ社会保障審議会の意見を聴いて定める行動の制限については、これを行うことができない。」I'm sorry, I'm not going to translate all that, but it's basically what you mentioned about limiting the means of communication and such. It says 「最終改正:平成一八年六月二三日」 at the top of the first link, meaning the final revision date was June 23, 2006, 5 years ago. It says in the FAQ to contact the Ministry that the law is under the jurisdiction of for an English translation, so you might try that route. IANAL.

You might also want to take a look at this link. It's a different law, but it's a related law that's mentioned in the first clause of the Act on Mental Health and Welfare for the Mentally Disabled.

On preview, beaten!
posted by misozaki at 4:44 AM on February 10, 2010

I asked Adamu from Mutantfrog, who knows more about this sort of stuff than me (but is not a lawyer/doctor and not your lawyer/doctor and this is not legal/medical advice etc.), if he could add any information, and this is what he said, quoted with permission because he has no account:

Looks like there is no official translation of the law. A couple years ago the government put together an awesome site devoted to English law translations:


And unfortunately that law isn't there. Rather than read the letter of the law, it would probably be more helpful to read an expert explanation of what the patient's rights are.

For instance, this clinic in Chiba prefecture has a FAQ on mental health issues.


In it, they explain that patients who are there voluntarily can generally agree to allow visitors, but "depending on the patient's symptoms" visitations may be restricted. Sounds very "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

That site looks like it was written around 2003, so I looked around for a more recent answer. On Yahoo Q&A, a self-proclaimed expert was still explaining in 2009 that the same standard applies, so I think it's safe to assume it's still in place.
posted by No-sword at 4:33 PM on February 10, 2010

Thanks, folks. I'm saving these pages to take a look at while I'm offline later today. Seeing the Japanese law is definitely encouraging. I'd love to find some more English explanations of the patients' rights, No-sword, but all I've found so far has been very general and brief.

It's not quite a "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" situation, but it's a lot closer to it than I would have ever expected.

Meanwhile, I did run across this entry in a page of the National Diet Library's catalog:

Mental health and welfare law : English translation : 1999 revised edition / [by]Japanese Association of
Psychiatric Hospitals. -- 岡山 : 浅羽医学研究所, 2002.10. -- 41p ; 30cm

So it looks like there's an English translation out there somewhere. I haven't yet tracked down any other references to this book, though.

Thanks again for pulling up these pages. They should help a lot.
posted by Lirp at 6:09 PM on February 10, 2010

It looks like an English translation is available as Law Related to Mental Health and Welfare. It doesn't seem to be as strongly worded as I had been led to believe, unfortunately, but I'm still glad to find it.

Thanks again for the help.
posted by Lirp at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2010

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