Tuesday 6 December 2016

Girl (16) 'almost mute' with depression needs electroconvulsive therapy - court hears

Three consultants used the expression "now almost mute" to describe girl's condition

Tim Healy

Published 18/04/2016 | 16:15

ECT (Stock photo)
ECT (Stock photo)

A 16-YEAR-old girl who has become "almost mute" due to depression associated with an eating disorder needs to be treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the High Court was told.

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Court president Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he wanted to hear from the girl's parents and treating consultant as part of an application by the HSE for permission to administer the ECT.  It involves an electric current being passed through the brain or part of it, under anaesthetic. 

The judge noted there may be some controversy around the use of ECT and he may want to ask the consultant questions.

The court heard the girl was sent to a UK facility just over a year ago suffering from anorexia nervosa complicated by extreme depression.

While her weight was stabilised, her depression was such that she "is now almost mute" and three consultants had used that expression to describe her, Peter Finlay SC, for the HSE, said.

As a result, it had been decided by her clinicians that she should be treated with ECT.

Counsel said however that the HSE now needs a court order permitting it to take place.

There would then need to be an application to the UK courts seeking an order backing up the Irish order.

Unfortunately, before she was taken to the UK, her parents and clinicians had not consulted legally and as a result the need to make these applications had arisen.

It was never intended by the HSE that just because a patient received treatment abroad that their rights here would be lessened, counsel said. 

While an application for ECT for a minor must be approved by the courts here, under out Mental Health Act, that was not necessarily the case in the UK.

However, the UK clinicians had said they would support the treatment.

Mr Justice Kelly granted Mr Finlay an order appointing an independent social worker as guardian ad litem to represent the girl's interests in the court proceedings.

A solicitor for the parents said they were anxious the application should be heard as soon as possible.

Mr Justice Kelly put the matter in for hearing on Wednesday. 

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