Press Release

Minister Kathleen Lynch secures Oireachtas Agreement on ECT Bill.

Ms Kathleen Lynch T.D., Minister for Primary Care, Social Care (Disabilities & Older People) and Mental Health has secured amendments from the Oireachtas to mental health legislation for the administration of Electro-convulsive Therapy (ECT). This is for patients involuntarily admitted to psychiatric hospitals.

The Minister said, ‘Last week the Dáil agreed to my amendments to the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 to ensure that in future an involuntary patient with capacity can refuse ECT treatment.  Yesterday, the Seanad also passed this important amending bill which seeks to place a higher priority on a person’s autonomy. This is the same as we have achieved with the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill which also received Oireachtas approval yesterday.

In addition to the change regarding ECT, I have also now secured an amendment to section 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001. This will ensure that in future where an involuntary patient with capacity refuses the administration of medicine after three months, that refusal will be respected.

I have always believed that where a patient who has the necessary capacity to make a decision, has been given all the information about the procedure and opts to refuse treatment, this decision should be respected.  By removing the word ‘unwilling’ from sections 59 and 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001, we can now achieve this aim.’

In operational terms, the Minister intends to sign a commencement order in January 2016 with an effective date of 1 February 2016 for the changes to take place. This will give the Mental Health Commission a little time to prepare for the change.  Minister Lynch has also received Government approval for a much wider reform of the current mental health legislation.  A general scheme of a bill to reflect the recommendations of the Expert Group in revised legislation is at an early stage of drafting.

In her remarks to the Seanad, Minister Lynch singled out for praise, Senator David Norris and former Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Dan Boyle, all of whom originally sponsored the bill when it commenced in 2008 as a private members bill.  The Minister  acknowledged the role played by mental health campaigners in general. In particular she acknowledged the role of the late John McCarthy of Mad Pride  for his tireless work in seeking an end to the practise of administering Electro-convulsive Therapy to patients with capacity who refused such treatment.