Press Release

Minister Kathleen Lynch says Planned ECT Amendment Now To Proceed

Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D., Minister for Primary Care, Social Care (Disabilities & Older People) and Mental Health has confirmed today (Thursday 3 December 2015) that the planned amendment to mental health legislation regarding the administration of Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT) to patients involuntarily admitted to psychiatric hospitals is now to proceed.

The Minister said, ‘The Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001 which was published earlier this year strongly recommended a change to the law as it stands relating to the administration of ECT to involuntary patients with capacity. The law currently allows for two Consultant Psychiatrists to authorise a course of ECT to a patient who has been involuntarily admitted for treatment even if that person has capacity and refuses such treatment. This is no longer acceptable and is in breach of international norms in this regard.

With the agreement of the opposition, I have now secured time in the very busy Dáil schedule on Tuesday next, the 8th of December to introduce an amending Mental Health Bill which will delete the word ‘unwilling” from section 59 of the Mental Health Act 2001 to ensure that where an involuntary patient has capacity and refuses such treatment, that patient’s wishes will be respected. I plan to make a similar amendment to section 60 of the Act which also allows an involuntary patient with capacity to be overruled where the administration of medicine over three months is concerned. I want to thank the opposition for agreeing to allow this short Bill to proceed as I believe that the measures in it will have the full support of the House.’

The Expert Group review had 165 recommendations, the vast bulk of which relate to changes in legislation. The Department is working on heads of a Bill to take account of these changes. The changes to ECT and administration of medicine were prioritised by the Expert Group and have been the subject of calls for some time by respected organisations such as Mental Health Reform and Amnesty International.

The Minister concluded by saying, ‘This change is necessary, has the support of stakeholders in the mental health area and returns autonomy to persons with capacity who refuse such treatment.’