The locking up of psychiatric patients has become a delicate issue, and raises more than questions of consent and of civil liberties. Up to about 20 years ago it was very formally regulated. No patient could be secluded without the authority in writing of the medical superintendent or the responsible consultant, and the hours of starting and finishing seclusion had to be recorded in a special book. Woe betide any nurse or junior doctor who was found to have shut up a patient without higher authority or without record. One of the duties of a ward doctor in a psychiatric hospital was to do surprise checks on single rooms to see if someone was locked in unofficially. This and the other rules with the force of law had been established because of many abuses earlier uncovered.
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