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Clarification of ECT in Queensland

21 Nov 2016

On 20 November 2016 News Limited published a story about Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) in Queensland, titled Alarming spike in risky therapy for kids.

The data related to this media enquiry was published by Queensland Health in response to a Right to Information request:

The article requires clarification of both the statements of the Commissioner and the data.

  • The headline Alarming spike in risky therapy for kids is incorrect. The data available shows nine people under 18 were treated with ECT in both 2013/14 and 2014/15. The total number of treatments decreased.
  • The Commissioner’s statement emphasised that: “… ECT for minors is a rare occurrence…”. This is reinforced by the evidence.
  • The article attributes to the Commissioner a statement that ECT under an involuntary legal status was “among the highest in Australia.” She did note however that based on published data, ECT treatment rates in Queensland are higher than reported rates in NSW and Victoria, noting that each state has different legislation and data might not be directly comparable.
  • The article erroneously says that the Commissioner “denied suggestions ECT was being used as a profiteering practice”. The statement provided says:“Comment on treatment trends or the efficacy of the treatment would require analysis of the circumstances. The Commission does not have this information.”
  • The Commissioner further emphasised significant new patient rights protections under Queensland’s new Mental Health Act 2016:

“I believe ECT is a treatment that should be available – but only with clear patient rights protections.”

Under the new Act these include:

•   All ECT for children to be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal, and a lawyer must be provided to represent the child
•   All involuntary treatment for adults to be reviewed by the Mental Health Review Tribunal
•   Taking into account patient views
•   Right to a second opinion
•   Views of family and support persons also to be considered.

Download our full response regarding ECT in Queensland