Forced use of ECT to end after review of mental health law

Current legislation allows shock treatment on patients unwilling to provide consent

Kathleen Lynch: Intends to change legislation shortly to reflect the recommendations on ECT use. Photograph: The Irish Times

Kathleen Lynch: Intends to change legislation shortly to reflect the recommendations on ECT use. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The controversial practice of administering electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to patients with mental health problems who refuse to consent to the treatment is to end.

The move follows a major review of mental health legislation, due to be published on Thursday by Minister of State for Health Kathleen Lynch.

The expert group report contains 165 proposals that seek to strengthen patients’ rights, extend the remit of watchdog bodies and place a greater emphasis on children’s services.

Existing legislation is regarded by many campaigners as outdated given the growing emphasis on care in the community and demands for greater autonomy by patient groups.

Patient rights

The proposals seek to move away from a paternalistic interpretation of patient rights to one where individuals have a much greater say in their own treatment.

At present, the mental health Act states that ECT may be administered where a patient is “unable or unwilling” to give consent once it has been approved by two consultant psychiatrists.

Under the proposals, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial therapy to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

Ms Lynch has confirmed she intends to change legislation shortly to reflect the recommendations on ECT use.