Changes to mental health law expected

Pre-existing views of patients on treatments likely to be taken into account

The High Court ruled last week that an 
86-year-old woman suffering from psychotic depression is to be given electric shock treatment despite the resistance of her family
and following a High Court decision last Friday
.

The High Court ruled last week that an 86-year-old woman suffering from psychotic depression is to be given electric shock treatment despite the resistance of her family and following a High Court decision last Friday .

Mon, May 13, 2013, 10:53

Existing Irish mental health legislation is “out of sync with international law” where the use of Electro-Convulsive Treatment (ECT) on some psychiatric patients is concerned, NUI Galway law lecturer Charles O’Mahony has said.

He noted, for instance, that where a patient was unable or unwilling to allow ECT it could still be applied to them if that was the decision of two psychiatrists.

Currently it is not necessary that the second psychiatrist involved “would be independent, ie outside of the particular service”, he said.

Nor did Irish law allow for the pre-existing views of a patient on ECT be taken into account, he said.

He was responding to a Sunday Times report yesterday which said an 86-year-old woman suffering from psychotic depression is to be given electric shock treatment following a High Court decision last Friday and despite the resistance of her family.

The woman’s children said that, prior to a deterioration in her health, their mother had made it clear she did not want ECT.

An involuntary patient at a Dublin hospital since last October the elderly woman’s doctors have since concluded she no longer is capable of making decisions about her treatment. They believe ECT would assist her.

On Friday Justice Nicholas Kearns, president of the High Court, granted an application by the HSE to allow her be given ECT.

Speaking to The Irish Times last night Mr O’Mahony said legislation to be introduced in the Dáil in the coming weeks was likely to bring changes to current mental health law .

He said the working group on reform of the Mental Health Act 2001 is to make its final recommendations shortly.

Its interim report last year suggested 25 provisions of the 2001 Act needed further examinations from a human rights perspective.

It was also the case that the Minster for Justice Alan Shatter is to introduce a new Bill on assisted decision-making which was likely to give statutory backing to the pre-existing views of patients on what treatment they should be given should they lose capacity to do so later, he said.