Psychiatry electroconvulsive therapy The Mental Health Act (MHA) 2001
Irish Institute of Psychological Medicine
Dunne R, Kavanagh A, McLoughlin DM, Electroconvulsive therapy, capacity and the law in Ireland., Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 26, 2009, 3-5
Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine; 26;
The Mental Health Act (MHA) 2001 has major implications
for treating patients with electroconvulsive therapy
(ECT), especially as those referred for treatment are
among the most severely ill and often lose capacity.
Under the MHA 2001, a person may only be treated without
consent if they are an involuntary patient. However,
there is no provision in the Act for treating voluntary inpatients
whose mental state has deteriorated but who do
not seek to leave hospital. Such people may lack capacity
to make treatment decisions but be passively compliant.
The Wards of Court system is currently the only legal
recourse but has been criticised by the Law Reform
Commission and is unwieldy. Further legislation governing
treatment of people lacking capacity to consent
to ECT or withhold consent is required to protect and
advance treatment of all concerned.
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