Electro Convulsive Therapy for treating suicidal tendencies: HC seeks reply from Centre, NIMHANS
Bengaluru: While considering a plea questioning the prohibition on Electro Convulsive Therapy for treating mental illness, the Karnataka High Court has recently issued notice to Central and State Government asking them to file their statement of objections within four weeks.
Further noting that only an expert body could answer whether or not the ECT treatment is to be given to mentally ill patients, the High Court bench comprising of Acting Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum allowed the petitioner for impleading the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) as a party respondent to the petition.
The plea moved by a consulting neurosychiatrist has sought to quash Section 94 (3) of The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which restrains using the therapy in question for treating mental illness claiming that the prevention of ECT treatment violates the rights guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 for the patients.
The doctor has sought in his petition a direction on the Government authorities so that the ECT treatment method could be allowed on those patients who have suicidal thoughts, by a qualified psychiatrist with a minimum degree of MD (Psychiatry) from a recognised University, adds Live Law.
Besides, the plea also seeks to appoint a joint committee led by retired Supreme Court/High Court judge along with Department of Psychiatry of Central Institutes like NIMHANS, PGI Chandigarh etc.
As per the latest media report by Live Law, the petition has pointed out that it is natural for patients with mental illness to harbor suicidal ideas and attempt to suicide. Claiming that ECT, which is erroneously known as Shock Treatment, if could be used for mental illnesses as emergency treatment, the patients could stop having suicidal tendencies.
"ECT, which is erroneously termed by people as 'shock treatment', if used in the cases mental illness leading to suicidal tendencies as an emergency treatment and treatment of choice, can undo suicidal ideas and suicidal attempts," the doctor was quoted saying by The Hindu.
He also claimed that "by administering modified ECT, mentally affected patients can be saved from the death due to suicide or other disastrous consequences."
The petition has thus referred to the Section 94 in this context. It reads,
"94. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, any medical treatment, including treatment for mental illness, may be provided by any registered medical practitioner to a person with mental illness either at a health establishment or in the community, subject to the informed consent of the nominated representative, where the nominated representative is available, and where it is immediately necessary to prevent— (a) death or irreversible harm to the health of the person; or (b) the person inflicting serious harm to himself or to others; or (c) the person causing serious damage to property belonging to himself or to others where such behaviour is believed to flow directly from the person's mental illness."
However, Live Law adds that the explanation clause 3 of the said section clearly mentions, "(3) Nothing in this section shall allow any medical officer or psychiatrist to use electroconvulsive therapy as a form of treatment."
"This is tantamount to being massively contrary to one another. The contradictory statements suffer from the vice of the doctrine of colourable legislation", stated the plea.
After duly considering the petition, the Karnataka High Court bench has directed the State and Central Government to file their statement of objections within four weeks.
Further allowing the petitioner to implead NIMHANS as a party respondent, the bench observed, "Whether the ECT can be given or not has to be answered by some expert body. Therefore, we permit the petitioner to implead NIMHANS, through its Director, for obtaining expert opinion."
The matter has been adjourned to be next heard on October 27.