Dáil Éireann - Volume 445 - 11 October, 1994

Written Answers. - Electric Shock Treatment.

[1281] 435. Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Health the legal position which exists in this State regarding the administering of electric shock treatment (ECT) to mentally disturbed patients; if the medical profession has any guidelines in relation to the use of ECT; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this treatment is banned by law in some countries; and if he will consider introducing similar laws in the Republic of Ireland. [560/94]

Minister for Health (Mr. Howlin): The administration of electro-convulsive therapy is governed by guidelines laid down by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and must also comply with the Ethical Code of Medical Practitioners. It must be prescribed by the consultant psychiatrist in charge of the patient and must satisfy certain clinical criteria. The Royal College may withdraw recognition of a consultant training programme if these guidelines are not met.

The Inspector of Mental Hospitals, in the course of his inspections of psychiatric hospitals examines ECT procedures, equipment and premises to ensure that they are of an appropriate standard paying particular attention to rights, privacy and feelings of patients.

The Green Paper on Mental Health published in 1992, proposed new legal safeguards for detained mentally disordered persons in respect of consent to treatment. These proposals were based on the UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the Improvement of Mental Health Care.

The Green Paper proposed that treatment such as electro-convulsive therapy could only be given to a patient who cannot or will not give consent if the need for the treatment is supported by an independent second medical opinion. The person providing the second medical opinion would have to be satisfied that the patient lacked the capacity to give or withhold informed consent or that having regard to the patient's own [1282] safety or the safety of others, the patient was unreasonably withholding such consent. He or she would also have to be satisfied that the treatment was in the best interest of the patient's health. These proposals were welcomed by respondents to the Green Paper. My Department is currently drafting a White Paper on mental health legislation which will set out the Government's decisions in relation to new mental health law. I have made a commitment to publish the White Paper before the end of the year.