Citizens Committee on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Help Ban Electroshock in Victoria

Woman with terrible headache.A Victorian Royal Commission into Mental Health is currently underway. This the highest level of government inquiry.

Please ask the Royal Commission to recommend that the Victorian Mental Health Act is amended to ban electroshock (ECT) for all ages, with criminal fines and prison terms put in place for violation of this by 5 July 2019.

Until written laws are in place that ban psychiatric treatments such as the use of electroshock on children, pregnant women, the elderly and indeed everyone, there are no real safeguards.

What is Electroshock: Electroshock is the application of hundreds of volts of electricity to the brain. It can cause severe and permanent memory loss, brain damage, suicide, cardiovascular complications, intellectual impairment and even death.

Electroshock is torture: One Victorian woman who was forced to undergo electroshock said she has had security guards wheel her down to the treatment room holding her down so she didn’t escape. “I felt like I was being wheeled down to the gas chamber really,” she said. She would even eat from a hidden stash of food to avoid the general anaesthetic and when staff found her food, she resorted to eating grass to avoid the electroshock.1

22,765 electroshocks were in Victoria in 2017/18: In 2017/18 there were a total of 22,765 electroshock “treatments” given to Victorians including children. This was made up of: 9,484 “treatments” funded by Medicare when it was given privately. Of these 122 “treatments” were given to children aged 15 to 19 years of age.2 Plus another 13,281 electroshock “treatments” including to 2 children under the age of 18 in public facilities.3

What does the United Nations say about Electroshock? In 2013, a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defined procedures such as electroshock without the consent of the patient as a “form of torture.” 4

Red question marksDoes Psychiatry Know How Electroshock Works? The answer is no. Psychiatry openly admits it still doesn’t know how ECT “works,” a fact easily discovered when researched for. Victoria‘s former Deputy Chief Psychiatrist Professor Kuruvilla George, wrote in an ECT article, “How does ECT work? This is the million dollar question and the first thing to state is that no one is certain.”5

There are No Criminal Fines or Prison Terms in the Victorian Mental Health Act for Electroshock: Not only are there no criminal fines or prison terms for illegally giving electroshock, there are also no fines or prison terms related to restraint, seclusion, inappropriate use of psychiatric drugs, ill treatment or neglect of a patient. Other states of Australia have criminal fines of up to $25,000 or 2 years imprisonment for ill treatment. In stark contrast, under the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if a person commits an act of cruelty on any animal—if someone worries, torments, terrifies, wounds, mutilates or abuses the animal—they can be fined up to $40,297 or imprisoned for up to 12 months.6 It is completely unacceptable that vulnerable people can be mistreated without proper protection from the law.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Lodge a Submission by 5 July 2019

Hands typing on a laptop.Ask the Royal Commission to recommend that electroshock is banned in the Victorian Mental Health Act for all ages with criminal fines and prison terms in violation of this.

To lodge a submission log onto: https://rcvmhs.vic.gov.au/submissions


References

  1. Sarah Farnsworth, “Hundreds of patients forced to have ECT in Victoria without legal representation,” ABC News, 21 Nov.2016. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-20/patients-forced-to-have-ect-without-legal-representation/8030996
  2. Freedom of Information Request by CCHR to Department of Human Services, FOI 1150 Document 1, Unpublished Medicare Statistics, Department of Health, 3 June 2019, please contact CCHR for document Statistics generated on Medicare Australia website using MBS item codes: 14224 for electroconvulsive therapy, Click on “Item By Patient Demographic Reports.” https://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/statistics/mbs_item.shtml Of this Medicare funded total some may have received electroshock in public facilities if they elected to receive it privately in a public facility.
  3. Victorian Chief Psychiatrist’s annual report 2017-18, pp. 19,20. https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/key-staff/chief- psychiatrist/annual-reports
  4. Mr. Juan E Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 22nd session of the Human Rights Council Agenda Item 3, 4 March 2013, Geneva.
    26. Western Australia Mental Health Act 2014, S 194, p. 145;
  5. Dr. Kuruvilla George, “Effective ECT,” Australian Doctor, 5 November 2014
  6. South Australia Mental Health Act 2009, s49; Western Australia Mental Health Act 2014, s253; NSW Mental Health Act 2007, No 8, s69. https://www.judcom.nsw.gov.au/publications/benchbks/sentencing/fines.html ; Queensland Mental Health Act 2016, s621, https://www.qld.gov.au/law/fines-and-penalties/types-of-fines/sentencing-fines-and-penalties-for-offences ; Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986, s9, s10. http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/ltobjst10.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/76C7FFBC70EAA12FCA258351000B1005/$FILE/86-46aa093%20authorised.pdf; A Penalty Unit is currently $161.19 from July 1 2018 to 30 June 2019. https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers/fines-and-infringements/penalty-units