ECT without consent branded human rights breach

Updated at 12:50 pm on 31 December 2013

Mental health support groups want a ban on the use of controversial electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) on patients who haven't given consent.

ECT is most often used in cases of severe depression, and if patients don't give their consent, clinicians can order it if they get approval from a second, independent, psychiatrist.

But chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation Judi Clements says a patient's lack of choice is a breach of human rights.

ECT was administered without consent 495 times in 2011, but in 2012, that figure rose to 690.

Director of Mental Health Dr John Crawshaw says the treatment can be life-saving, and people who are mentally ill, may not have the capacity to make a decision.

Dr Crawshaw says he has administered the treatment himself and has seen how it can be life-saving.

Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson says everyone should have the right to refuse electro-convulsive therapy, despite it being an effective treatment for some mental health patients.

Mr Gibson, says the New Zealand Mental Health Act was a world leader in its time but is now over 20 years old and in need of a serious review.

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