The aim of this study was to seek the views of consultant psychiatrists on the legal framework they would use when considering treatment with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). A questionnaire, consisting of three clinical vignettes, was sent to 70 consultants in the Wessex rotation (East Dorset/Hampshire region).
A total of 56 questionnaires were returned; a response rate of 80%. Most consultant psychiatrists agree when giving ECT to capacitated and non-consenting patients. However, there was a lack of consensus when dealing with seemingly incapacitated but compliant patients.
More clarification in this area is needed. Trusts can assist clinicians by devising their own policies based on nationally agreed standards of best practice. The treatment of mentally incapacitated but compliant patients is an area of practice where uncertainty exists. If proceeding under common law in such cases, it is good practice to discuss with relatives/carers and obtain a second opinion from a consultant colleague. The most recent Bournewood judgement and the new Mental Health Bill will have further implications for clinical practice.
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