Electro Convulsive Therapy

shockFor any of us who are Film Buffs, the images of the use of Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), or “Shock therapy” as it was once generally known, in the context of Mental Health Treatment (films such as ‘One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest’) are shocking (pun unintended).

However, the reality of the matter is that certain patients respond very positively to ECT which is a legitimate Mental Health Treatment.   The treatment, however, is invasive and it is paramount that the rights, sensitivities and dignity of the Patient are fully respected.

Currently, a Patient can be obliged to undergo this treatment where two Consultant Psychiatrists approve the treatment.

In a very positive development in this area, the Minister is currently having the Mental Health Act 2001 reviewed and the provisions in relation to ECT are soon to be amended to introduce the following changes:-

  • The use of ECT will not be allowed without the CONSENT of the Patient. Simply stated, a capable Patient can refuse to undergo such treatment.
  • Where the Patient is not competent to make a decision, the consent of his/her Decision Making Representative will be needed.
  • Otherwise where the Patient does not have capacity to make a decision and there is no Decision Making Representative the treatment can only be imposed on the Patient where it is in life-saving circumstances (or where the Patient’s Condition is otherwise resistant to treatment)

The anticipated Legislation will also provide for independent Review by the Mental Health Review Board within 3 days of the decision to use ECT treatment.


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