Mental patients are denied the same legal rights as are accorded to ordinary citizens and even to criminals. A mental patient may be committed voluntarily or against his will to a psychiatric hospital from which, if he wishes to leave, he may have to prove before a tribunal that he is not insane (even in countries where a prisoner on trial is deemed innocent until proven guilty). He may be allowed no legal representation at the tribunal and once its decision is made, there may be no right of appeal. If he is not guilty of a criminal offence, habeas corpus cannot be invoked for his release. During internment there is no machinery for appeal against abuse by psychiatrists and psychiatric workers. The treatment alone may be brutal and disturbing, but other 'illegal' excesses have also been brought to light in recent years. Patients may be committed to hospital for political or family reasons. Diagnosis of mental disorder and hence treatment is widely disputed among different psychiatrists and yet in most cases the opinion of only one is needed to certify a person insane in the first instance and to prolong hospitalization thereafter. Relatives, psychiatric workers and the state (in the case of political prisoners) may confiscate the property of certified patients.
In the UK, for example, a mental patient may apply for a discharge 6 months after he has been committed, and again after 6 months, and also at the end of the 2nd year; from then on, only at 2-year intervals. Under Japanese law, a superintendent of a mental hospital can commit a patient indefinitely without he patient's consent and without the opinion of independent psychiatrists if the person responsible for the patient, usually a family member, gives consent.