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Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT)

In some circumstances, the Tribunal must decide whether to make an Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT) Order. In other cases, you can make your own decision about ECT without the Tribunal’s involvement.

When can you make your own decision about ECT without the Tribunal’s involvement?

If you’re an adult (18 or older) and are currently accessing mental health services on a voluntary basis, you are free to decide whether you want to consent to ECT. The Tribunal does not make decisions about ECT for this group of adults.

Similarly, if you are an adult (18 or older) and are currently accessing mental health services on a compulsory basis and you have capacity to give informed consent, you can decide whether you want ECT without the Tribunal’s involvement.

For these reasons, when we use the word ‘patient’ below we mean a compulsory, security or forensic patient.

When does your psychiatrist have to apply to the Tribunal for an ECT Order?

If you are an adult patient and your psychiatrist doesn’t think you have capacity to give informed consent to ECT they must apply to the Tribunal for an ECT Order before providing ECT.

Your psychiatrist must also always apply to the Tribunal before providing ECT if you are under 18 (whether or not you have capacity to give informed consent to ECT).

What are my rights at a Tribunal hearing about ECT?

Information about the hearing process and your rights is available here: Your Rights at a Tribunal Hearing.  For Your Rights at a Tribunal Hearing in other languages click here.

When will the Tribunal list my ECT hearing?

The Tribunal must list and hear an ECT application within five business days after receiving the application. Your psychiatrist can request an urgent hearing if they’re satisfied that the course of ECT is necessary to save your life, prevent serious damage to your health or to prevent significant pain or distress. The Tribunal must hear urgent applications as soon as practicable. Hearings of urgent applications generally happen within two business days.

What are the criteria the Tribunal considers when making a decision?
  • If you’re an adult patient, the Tribunal may only approve ECT if it is satisfied that you don’t have capacity to give informed consent and there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated.
  • If you’re a patient under 18 the Tribunal may only approve ECT if it is satisfied that you have given informed consent or do not have capacity to give informed consent and there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated.
  • If you’re a voluntary young person under 18, the Tribunal can only approve ECT if you have either given informed consent or do not have capacity to give informed consent but a person who has the legal authority to consent has given informed consent in writing and there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated.
What are the Tribunal’s powers at a hearing?

If one or more of the criteria are not met, the Tribunal must refuse to make an ECT Order. If the criteria are met, when making an Order the Tribunal must decide how long it is for (up to a maximum of 6 months) and the number of treatments (up to a maximum of 12 treatments).

More information

For more information about ECT, including a description of ECT, see the website of the Department of Health and Human Services here. You can find a statement of rights for adult patients here and one for young people here.