By Carl O’Brien
March 16, 2010
A CONSULTANT psychiatrist employed by the HSE has warned that psychiatrists have “too much power” and that rules on the use of electro-shock therapy need to be changed to protect patients.
Dr Pat Bracken, clinical director for the West Cork mental health service, was speaking at a private briefing for members of the Oireachtas on whether changes are needed to laws governing use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). These rules state that ECT can be used where a patient is “unable or unwilling” to give consent once it has been approved by two consultant psychiatrists.
Dr Bracken said this law meant there was no legal comeback for a patient who felt they had been harmed.
“In any other branch of medicine it would be unconscionable to allow a procedure to go ahead, except in the most dire emergency, without procuring consent, if not from the patient then from a next-of-kin,” he said.
He said ECT was the “most invasive procedure” currently used by psychiatrists and that research showed that at least a third of recipients had suffered substantial memory loss after treatment.
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