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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 19:58 GMT
Concern over mental health bill
Mental health image
Patients could be forced to undergo treatments
Mental health patients could be forced to undergo controversial treatment against their will under a new bill, charities have claimed.

Eight charities are calling on MSPs to make a last-minute amendment to the Mental Health Bill, which promises the biggest shake-up of the service for 40 years.

They fear that the bill, which is reaching the final stages of debate in the Scottish Parliament, could result in treatments against patients' will.

Their concerns relate to treatments such as Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), which involves giving electric shocks to the brain.

Shona Barcus of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) said: "Patients given information are in a very strong position to make decisions about their own life and their own care and treatment."

The treatment is often effective in treating severe depression in the short-term but a significant proportion of patients suffer severe side effects including memory loss.

Ruth Lang
Ruth Lang suffered memory loss
ECT patient Ruth Lang had four courses of successful treatment before suffering memory loss.

She now has to use a notebook to remind her of duties at work.

"The shock for me was coming back to work, into my office, and I first of all could not remember where things were kept," she said.

"My line manager had to, literally, show me around."

The charities said that patients who have suffered side effects in the past should be able to sign advance statements.

These should only be overruled by an independent tribunal in exceptional circumstances, they said.

The Mental Welfare Commission welcomed the principle of user involvement, but insisted that sometimes patients cannot decide what is best for them.

In a statement it said: "There might be uncommon situations in which a patient is in serious risk, has an advance statement refusing what would be effective treatment and is unable, because of the severity of his or her illness, to review the decision at the time the treatment is necessary as other people might do if capable.

"It is reasonable to allow a doctor to act in such circumstances, after careful consideration and consultation."

Eleanor Bradford reports
"It's the biggest shake-up of mental laws in 40 years"

Shona Barcus, SAMH
"We currently ignore patients wishes"

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