Online poll shows opposition to mental health DNA policy

By staff writers
September 5, 2008

Black church leaders have joined health experts in welcoming findings from a new opinion poll showing widespread opposition to the current trend of adding the DNA of innocent mental health patients to the National Criminal DNA database.

New research by campaign group Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK) shows public opinion to be against this practice, which health experts warn may have the effect of criminalising one of society's most vulnerable groups.

The survey, published this week, is based on results of 742 respondents taking part through an online survey, tackling views on adding the genetic profiles of mental health patients who come in contact with the police.

An overwhelming 88.41% of those surveyed said they were against. 10.70% said they did not know if DNA should be retained or not. Only 0.81% said that they agreed with current practice.

The online opinion poll was launched in May 2008.

"If there is a real commitment to address the stigma and barriers to recovery for people who use the services, then the government should act", said Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK.

"Part of justice is that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. This practice blurs that boundary and begs [many] questions", added the Rev Paul Grey, pastor of Nuneaton New Testament Church of God, which serves an area of London where the issue of Black mental health is a live one.

Consultant psychiatrist Professor Suman Fernando says there is a need to rethink policy, especially with the insecurity over government data, "not least of all because it is not good for the mental health and well being of a patient to know that they on a criminal database."

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