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Statement in response to reports on Victorian Supreme Court ruling

02 November 2018
 
 
 
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) affirms that a person should be supported to make their own decisions about treatment where possible, and that informed consent respects patient autonomy and protects human rights.
 
The President of the RANZCP, Dr Kym Jenkins said: ‘When offering a patient treatment, a clinician should always seek the informed consent of the person.
 
‘Indications for treatment should always be carefully considered and discussed with patients, carers, families and/or other concerned parties, as is appropriate in the situation,’ said Dr Jenkins.
 
‘A key requirement for a person to make decisions about particular treatments is their capacity to do so at the time the decision needs to be made.’
 
Dr Jenkins emphasised: ‘The capacity to give informed consent is task specific and situation sensitive. This can make assessing capacity a very challenging area.
 
‘The mental illness of many of our patients can at times affect their capacity to give informed consent.
 
‘When someone is in the midst of severe depression or an acute relapse of psychosis their capacity to understand the information available can be impaired. This can make it difficult for them to weigh up the pros and cons of treatment options in order to make an informed decision.’
 
Dr Jenkins also affirmed the importance of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as a safe and effective treatment for some mental illnesses.
 
‘ECT has a strong evidence base and is the best choice of treatment for particular patients and conditions. It is not unusual for a patient to indicate that ECT is their preferred treatment.’
 
‘I have seen many instances where treatment with ECT has been a lifesaving intervention.
 
The RANZCP looks forward to the opportunity to review the full Victorian Supreme Court ruling.
 
ENQUIRIES: Andy Newton at media@ranzcp.org or +61 437 315 911.
 
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.
 
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.