Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Qld Children Able to Consent to Psychosurgery and Electroshock Emergency Electroshock can be Given Immediately to Involuntarily Detained Children Without Parental Consent

The word "legislation" on a blue binder.The Queensland Mental Health Act is under review and public feedback is being called for on the current law. A child (under 18), if considered to have the capacity to consent, can consent to psychosurgery without the need for parental approval under the existing law, with final authorisation given by the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT).

Psychosurgery is illegal for all ages in both NSW and the NT. Potentially deadly, it can cause irreversible brain damage, stroke, permanent paralysis, suicide and post-operative death. It involves cutting or burning of the brain. In the case of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), electrodes are implanted in the brain and an electrical current surges through them from a pace-maker device under the skin on the chest. The cost of the pace-maker device alone is around $16,000 with the total cost around $70,000.

Electroshock, the application of hundreds of volts of electricity to the head — potentially causing brain damage, memory loss and death — is legal for use on children, pregnant women and the elderly in Queensland. If a voluntarily admitted child is considered competent, they can consent to electroshock without any parental consent. Electroshock can also be given to any child involuntarily detained without parental consent, if a psychiatrist applies for consent to the MHRT.

An involuntarily detained child can be given “emergency electroshock” if a psychiatrist and medical superintendent certify in writing it’s needed immediately. They must lodge an application with the MHRT, but don’t have to wait for approval. No parental consent is required. In 2011/12 there were 119 “emergency electroshocks” given.

Medicare funded electroshocks in Qld have increased by 48% since 2008/09 (up from 5,462 to 8,094 in 2011/12).

“Children are not allowed to drink, drive or vote, yet the current Qld Mental Health Act empowers psychiatrists to determine whether children can decide to have their brains cut, severed, burned or electroshocked, potentially damaging them for life,” said Ms Shelley Wilkins, national executive director of the Citizens Committee on Human Rights (CCHR).

Feedback closes: 11.59pm, 23 August 2013. Email the Mental Health Act Review Team: MHA_review@health.qld.gov.au
CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights.

Contact: Shelley Wilkins 02 9964-9844

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