Anyone who saw the film “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will remember the dreadful Nurse Ratched and a practice known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), whereby electrodes were applied to either side of a patient’s – or transgressor’s – cranium and a powerful electric current was shot through their skull.
Wiki summarises it thus:
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), formerly known as electroshock, is a psychiatric treatment in which seizures are electrically induced in anesthetized patients for therapeutic effect. Its mode of action is unknown. Today, ECT is most often recommended for use as a treatment for severe depression which has not responded to other treatment, and is also used in the treatment of mania and catatonia. It was first introduced in 1938 and gained widespread use as a form of treatment in the 1940s and 1950s.
Note the phrase, “its mode of action is unknown”.
As treatments go, it does not look terribly appealing – even less so when it invokes memories of Ratched and her strong-arm crew. So if running the blog and commenting on Ireland’s many depressing aspects ever got too much for me, I think I would prefer the Prozac option. Assuming, of course, that I had the option.
According to a report in The Irish Examiner, which a reader of the blog emailed, the forced use of ECT in Ireland was up for debate in the Senate this week. It was proposed that the practice of using ECT on patients "who are unwilling or unable to give consent" should be ended. A practice, incidentally, that Amnesty International describes as “a breach of human rights”.
The relevant section of Ireland’s Mental Health Act that allows it is Section 59b, which reads:
(b) where the patient is unable or unwilling to give such consent—
(i) the programme of therapy is approved (in a form specified by the Commission) by the consultant psychiatrist responsible for the care and treatment of the patient, and
(ii) the programme of therapy is also authorised (in a form specified by the Commission) by another consultant psychiatrist following referral of the matter to him or her by the first-mentioned psychiatrist.
According to another report in today’s Examiner, the Seanad debate was last night adjourned without a vote being taken. Even if it had been, such a vote would only have referred the matter to the Dail (the Irish parliament).
A group called Delete 59b, one of whose members was once head of the Mental Health Commission, is currently campaigning to have the relevant wording of the Mental Heath Act changed.
It has an online petition here Delete 59b
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