W Hunter Watson

This is a page dedicated to Papers and Articles by W Hunter Watson, Mental Health Human Rights Campaigner, retired Maths Lecturer, Aberdeen


Guardian article 13 October 2007

concluding paragraphs:

"Watson claims he then discovered a second time that his mother was being given medicine without her consent or knowledge. No formal complaint was ever made, no investigation was ever held, but at Watson's insistence, his mother was never covertly sedated again. In 1999 she contracted cancer, and this time - to her son's surprise - she gave her own consent for pain relief. Although by then in an advanced state of dementia she was still quite capable, he points out, of making a "treatment decision" for herself. But as the pain relief levels increased, her mental condition deteriorated. "She would say, 'Where is Hunter?' I'd say, 'I'm Hunter.' She'd look puzzled. I'd say, 'the boy you used to look after', and that seemed to reassure her. She'd say, 'Yes, and now you're looking after me.'" In January 2000, Helen Watson passed peacefully away.

But by then her son had begun his campaign against covert medication, which has now taken him all the way to the Scottish parliament. New guidelines are under review, and he hopes to see the practice explicitly outlined in the near future. "I would like," he says simply, "Scotland to be the first country in the world to say, 'Look, this is wrong - it shouldn't happen.'"

He must have made himself quite a thorn in the side of many authorities - he is, in his own words, "a bit of a serial campaigner" - but even he seems slightly amazed that his long campaign may at last be about to rewrite the rights of the elderly. I ask if he has been fighting all these years for his mother, as a tribute, or memorial, to her. He looks at me in quiet astonishment.

"No," he says softly. "I'm doing it because it is wrong."


Link to Press and Journal article 16 August 2014


Link to Press and Journal article 10 May 2014


28 February 2017: Important Court Judgements: Hunter Watson paper February 2017

Important Court Judgements: paper by Hunter Watson updated February 2017:

Read complete Paper


13 November 2016: The Lesley McDade affair: Hunter Watson 11Nov16 #ECHR Article 3
European Convention on Human Rights

Link to P&J article Aug14
"In the attached paper I explain why the Lesley McDade affair provides further evidence that it is essential that there be a full review of the 2003 Act. I also point out that yet again the Scottish Government has failed to provide satisfactory answers to written PQs. Finally I recommend that there be legislative reform in Scotland in order to bring Scottish mental health and incapacity legislation into line with modern human rights law, notably with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and of the Supreme Court.
                Best wishes,
                                Hunter Watson"

W Hunter Watson blog page link


31 January 2016: Emails received from detained female patient (Lesley McDade) in Scottish psychiatric hospital

"Yesterday evening I received 5 Emails, forwarded on from a woman who is a detained patient in a Scottish psychiatric hospital, not Fife.  Dated from 20-29 January 2016.  Which I have forwarded on to colleagues, to Colin McKay, Mental Welfare Commission, to MSPs in the woman's area, to my MSP Roderick Campbell, and to VOX (voices of experience) and HUG (Highland Users Group) contacts, for their information.

In these Emails the woman says that she is not mentally ill but is to be subject to a forced depot injection fortnightly.  And was given one electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment on the day she entered the hospital.  Her writing was lucid and made sense, containing observations of what went on in the ward and issues arising.

I noticed that there were IT, knitting and pottery classes available.  Nothing like that was on offer at Stratheden Hospital, Fife, in 2012.  The female patient also said that independent advocacy was helpful and that she managed to eventually obtain a solicitor to act on her behalf, likely at a Mental Health Tribunal, appealing the 28 day detention.

The patient says that she was put on to a 28 day S44 short-term detention, not a 72 hour one, "for the purpose of an Appeal under the Act".  And says that she always receives a depot injection on the "premise" that she refuses to accept that she is mentally ill or that the diagnosis is correct.

The Emails had long lists of points containing a variety of information and detail, past and present.  They were not addressed to me in person but had been forwarded on so I assume that many other people also received these Emails.  I think it's very useful that this woman has written about her daily experiences as a psychiatric patient on the ward.  A personal diary shared with the outside world."


3 November 2016: Scottish Mental Health Act 2003: 'Lack of Effective Safeguards' Hunter Watson Nov16

Email from W Hunter Watson, 2 November 2016, sent to Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health and other MSPs, campaigners, activists, carers and psychiatric survivors:

"In the attached paper I emphasise that the lack of effective safeguards in the 2003 Act taken in conjunction with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights opens up the possibility that any involuntary mental health patient could raise a court action with a reasonable chance of success on the grounds that one or more of his or her human rights had been breached. Given what happened when a prisoner's court action led to the finding that being forced to "slop out" constituted degrading treatment and hence breached Article 3 ECHR it would be nigh certain that one successful court action by an involuntary mental health patient would be followed by many more, something that could result in the NHS paying out vast sums in compensation.
   As I have observed previously, in the period from January 2016 to August 2016 only 1.8% of the applications for a Compulsory Treatment Order were refused by the Tribunal. This paper provides information which should help to explain why that figure is so low. It quotes from three tribunal transcripts which are in my possession. These transcripts demonstrate that the level of proof at those particular tribunals was far too low. This is mainly because tribunal members consider psychiatrists and MHOs to be credible witnesses and are prepared to accept as fact any of their testimony. In my opinion, not only are tribunal members failing in their duty by not properly testing the evidence but they are demonstrating a measure of gullibility by being prepared to accept as gospel whatever evidence that is presented to them by a health professional. Sometimes the health professional might honestly believe what he is saying to the Tribunal even though it is untrue. On other occasions the health professional will deliberately be attempting to mislead the Tribunal in an attempt to persuade it to grant the sought for Compulsory Treatment Order. That happened on several occasions in the hearings for which I have the transcripts though I have only indicated one place in one transcript where a witness knowingly gave false evidence. In my comments on the transcripts I am also critical of the performance of the solicitor representing the mental health patient. There was a woeful failure on her part to attempt to test the evidence. No doubt the same criticism could be made of other solicitors should other tribunal transcripts become available for analysis.
          There has been a reluctance on the part of the Scottish Government to accept that the 2003 Act is not being implemented as Parliament had intended. I trust that the attached paper will be sufficient to persuade the Government that mental health tribunals are not effective safeguards against mental health patients being improperly deprived of their liberty and of being subjected to forced treatment which breaches their right to respect for private life or even their right not to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. If the Government is persuaded of this then obviously the Government should take steps to address these serious issues.
   I and others look forward to seeing the report on the scoping study related to the forthcoming review of Scottish mental health and incapacity legislation. I cannot believe that it will fail to draw attention to the need for significant changes in order to address important human rights issues. 
                       Best wishes,
                                       Hunter Watson"


5 October 2014 Scottish Sunday Express: HOSPITAL HORRORS: Patient locked in cell with no toilet, food or water 


20 September 2016: Obfuscation: Hunter Watson Sep16 #MentalHealthAct #ScotGov #HumanRights 

Here is an Email and 11 page Paper 'Obfuscation' September 2016, received this morning from Hunter Watson, mental health human rights campaigner, Aberdeen, Scotland, sent to Maureen Watt, Minister for Mental Health, Scottish Parliament:


Response from Dr Peter J Gordon:

"20th September 2016.

Dear Mr Watson,
Thank you for copying me into this communication and the attached paper which I have now read.

I do hope the Minister will do her very best to provide some clarity to the questions that you raise.

I think most that you circulated your paper to will be aware of my successful petition to the Scottish Parliament for a Sunshine Act (PE1493)which was closed after a public consultation. In a majority the public asked that payments from commercial enterprises to healthcare workers, researchers and academics are made available to the public and that this needs to be on a “Mandatory” basis.

I mention this, as I am of the view that it is a most important backdrop to your paper. In the cases you outline in your paper, psychotropic treatments have been given under the 2003 MH(S)A.

Sunshine Act Petition PE1493
As an NHS doctor working in Scotland I prescribe psychotropic medications as appropriately as I can trying to follow the evidence base.  I am quite certain that healthcare workers all want to help anybody who is suffering. I am also certain that no evidence base can ever be fully complete. However we will not know if we are potentially doing unwitting harm given the current level of commercial interests in NHS Scotland. If anybody is in doubt, have a look at the evidence collected for PE1493: https://holeousia.com/about-me/a-sunshine-act-for-scotland/

Given that current Scottish Guidance on this (HDL 62) has been ignored across Scotland for more than a decade it is reasonable to be significantly concerned about this. I understand that the Scottish Government are currently proceeding with this matter following the closure of my petition in March of this year.

I mentioned evidence. Before signing off, I just want to make a few reminders of  prescribing patterns in Scotland:

·        1 in 7 Scottish adults are now on antidepressants. Mostly taking them long-term it seems. Yet commercial interests only ever undertook short, 6 week studies. There is thus a lot of unknowns about long-term prescribing of antidepressants.

·        Each year, the prescribing of antipsychotics in Scotland, in all age groups, is rising. This concerns me very much. These medications have a role in reducing suffering but are also associated, most commonly with significant, and potentially life-shortening, side-effects.  Such use of antipsychotics in our elders has been very widely promoted by the pharmaceutical industry who developed the term “Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms in dementia” (BPSD). The industry then promoted this use by “educating” healthcare workers on “BPSD”. Today, healthcare workers are even more likely to be “educated” by commercial interests, and indeed, “Continuing medical Education” (CME) is a necessary part for doctor and nurse annual appraisal. The commercial sector are exploiting this professional requirement.

I hope this summary Mr Watson is of some help to you, and that the Minister may consider replying on the additional points I make.

We do need the help of the Scottish Government here to make sure we can achieve the best possible outcome when interventions are made whether willing or unwillingly.

Kind wishes

Dr Peter J Gordon
(writing in my own time)"


3 September 2016: Comments on Reports: Hunter Watson Aug16; Mental Health Act; #ECT #CRPD

"SEAN 2015 Report
The acronym “SEAN” stands for “Scottish ECT Accreditation Network”. The 2015 SEAN report contains statements of a factual nature but it also contains others which seem designed to divert the public from asking serious questions about ethical and human rights issues related to ECT. A study of the report also makes clear that the so-called legal safeguards designed to protect patients are worthless. ...


1 August 2016: Scotland's New Mental Health Strategy: Hunter Watson July 2016; the Right to Life #ECHR


15 July 2016: Unwillingness to Comply with International Treaties: Hunter Watson July 2016; #mentalhealth @scotgov


14 April 2016: Need for a Wider Review: Hunter Watson April 2016: Mental Health Act #SP16 


28 December 2015: Electro-Convulsive Therapy: W Hunter Watson, December 2015


19 October 2015: Consent to Treatment: W Hunter Watson; 18Oct15

Here is an Email received this morning from Hunter Watson, Aberdeen human rights campaigner, and accompanying documents below:

Strapline: Consent to treatment; 18 October 2015 

"Dear Alison,
                Thank you for your letter of 13 October in which you confirm that
Jamie Hepburn visiting pharmacy
you have provided Jamie Hepburn with a copy of my paper "Antipsychotic guidelines for dementia patients 2". I now attach reports of two court judgments and would be grateful if you could draw these to the attention of the Minister and suggest that either he reads them or that he instructs his officials to do so. These judgments clearly have implications for Scotland's mental health strategy.
    In the judgment relating to a refusal of treatment the report correctly notes that the judge observed that "Every adult capable of making decisions has an absolute right to accept or refuse medical treatment, regardless of the consequences of the decision. The decision does not need to be justified to anyone. Without consent any invasion of the body, however well-meaning or therapeutic, will be a criminal assault". 
     The judge's observation should be assessed in conjunction with the GMC consent guidance which stresses that there must be a presumption of capacity :"You must only regard a patient as lacking capacity once it is clear that, having been given all appropriate help and support, they cannot understand, retain, use or weigh up the information needed  to make that decision, or communicate their wishes".  The judge's observation should also be assessed in conjunction with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Person's with Disabilities and the General Comment on Article 12 issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
     I am not aware of any health professional being prosecuted as a consequence of having treated a patient without first having obtained consent. I am aware, however, of successful civil actions being raised by patients who suffered harm after being treated without having given their informed consent. They had not objected to the proposed treatment but might have done so had they been informed of the significant risks associated with the treatment. I attach a report of such a case. A jury in the USA awarded a woman $635,177 damages for long-term memory loss following electroconvulsive therapy. Although the report does not make the reason for the award completely clear it seems that there was a failure to warn the woman about the risks and that is likely to have been the main reason for making the award. It would have been unreasonable to have awarded damages for memory loss if the woman had been made well aware of that risk and had agreed to go ahead regardless.
     One implication of the attached reports is that it is never appropriate to treat a competent patient against his or her will. Hence section 242 should be deleted when the 2015 Mental Health Act is amended as should that part of the Act which permits electroconvulsive therapy to be given even if a patient resists or objects to the treatment: ECT is not the safe and effective treatment that its proponents claim it to be.
     Evidence from those who supported petition PE01494 on mental health legislation revealed that some psychiatrists made no serious attempt to assess the capacity of their patients to make decisions about medical treatment. The Code of Practice which replaces the Code for the 2003 Act should emphasise that this situation must change and that health professionals must seek not only consent, but also informed consent.
                                           Best wishes,

Landmark Decision: Jury awards $635,177 Damages for Memory Loss from Electroshock, 8 July 2005:

page one
page two
page three

Court of Protection upholds the right of a confused, lonely man to refuse treatment | UK Human Rights Blog; 13 October 2015, Rosalind English:

page one
page two
page three


13 October 2015: Antipsychotic Guidelines for Dementia Patients (2): W Hunter Watson, July 2015

Link to 12 page Paper by Hunter Watson

"The use of these drugs in those with dementia has substantial clinical risk attached, including a conservative estimate of 1,800 extra deaths and 820 extra serious adverse events such as stroke per year."
Sube Banerjee, Professor of Mental Health and Ageing, King's College London

Received this morning in an Email from Mr Watson, sent to an MSP and copied to others, including me:


12 October 2015: 'Revised Code of Practice for the 2003 Act': W Hunter Watson; October 2015

Here is a Paper received yesterday, written by Scottish mental health and human rights activist Hunter Watson, Aberdeen, sent to Colin McKay, Chief Executive at Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, copied in to various Members of the Scottish Parliament and other campaigners.

Hunter said:

"The joint report on the human rights of mental health patients in Scotland has motivated me to produce another paper which I attach: 


20 June 2015: Hunter Watson Paper: Section 242 of Scottish Mental Health Act 2003: is it ECHR compatible?
Press and Journal article April 2015

Hunter Watson, Human Rights Campaigner, Aberdeen, in an Email sent to MSPs and fellow mental health campaigners on 20 June 2015: 

"In the attached paper I point out that section 242 of the 2003 Act authorises the compulsory treatment of an adult with capacity. That is contrary to the advice of the Millan Committee, the committee that produced the report upon which the 2003 Act is based. 

The paper also draws attention to the fact that a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights makes it clear that the Court assumed that an adult with capacity must not be subjected to compulsory treatment. That was made explicit in a recent judgment of the Supreme Court. 

Further, a general comment made by UN Committee last year clearly demonstrates that it takes it for granted that persons with legal capacity have the right to refuse treatment. (Its only concern is that psychiatrists and others might be too ready to assume that people with a mental disorder lack capacity.)

There is a high probability that section 242 of the 2003 Act is not compatible with some Convention rights and hence, by virtue of section 29 of the Scotland Act, that the 2003 Act is not law. The Minister should not be permitted to evade making detailed responses to the points made in the attached paper by again claiming that he is confident that the 2003 Act, underpinned by the Millan principles, is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Minister should instead put in place without delay arrangements for conducting a wide review of the 2003 Act as requested by Richard Simpson and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
 I understand that the Scottish Parliament will be discussing the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill on Wednesday 24 June. I await with interest to find out whether the Minister accepts that there is a need for a wide review of the 2003 Act and also whether he is prepared to assure Parliament that the 2003 Act, amended by the Mental Health Bill to form the 2015 Act, is compatible with Convention rights. It would be wrong of him to offer Parliament any such assurance."
Here is Hunter Watson's 3 page paper on Section 242:


12 October 2014: 'Stand up to Mental Health Act' Letter by Hunter Watson, Sunday Express

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