If you are invited to a Tribunal hearing about electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), this information is for you. 

What is ECT?

ECT is the use of a brief electrical current to change the brain’s electrical activity. 

ECT is only given to a person when:

  • they have been given medicine to put them in a very deep sleep called a general anaesthetic), and
  • they have been given medicine to relax their muscles (called a muscle relaxant). 

Find out more about ECT on the health.vic website.

When does the Tribunal decide if you must have ECT?

If you are under 18 years old your psychiatrist must apply to the Tribunal for permission before they can give you ECT. 

If you are over 18 years old and have the capacity to give informed consent, you decide whether to have ECT. 

You have the capacity to give informed consent if you:

  • understand and can remember the information given to you about ECT
  • can use that information to make a decision
  • can communicate your decision by words, gestures or any other means.

If you do not have the capacity to give informed consent your psychiatrist must apply to the Tribunal for permission before they can give you ECT. 

If your psychiatrist applies for permission to give you ECT, we will invite you to a hearing which will be held within 5 business days. 
 

What can the Tribunal decide about ECT?

The Tribunal can decide to make an ECT Order that you must have ECT if you meet the criteria in the Mental Health Act 2014

If the Tribunal makes an ECT Order it must decide:

  • how long the Order will last (up to a maximum of 6 months) 
  • the number of treatments (up to a maximum of 12 treatments). 
What are the criteria for deciding whether you need ECT?

If you are a compulsory patient over 18 years old, the Tribunal can only approve ECT if:

  • you cannot give informed consent and 
  • there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated.

If you are a voluntary patient over 18 years old the Tribunal can only approve ECT if: 

  • you cannot give informed consent and 
  • there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated and
  • you have an instructional directive giving informed consent to ECT or
  • your medical treatment decision maker gives informed consent to ECT in writing.

If you are a compulsory patient under 18 years old the Tribunal can only approve ECT if:

  • you have given informed consent in writing or
  • you cannot give informed consent and 
  • there is no less restrictive way for you to be treated.

If you are a voluntary patient under 18 years old we can only approve ECT if:

  • you have given informed consent in writing or
  • you cannot 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. 
     
Plan what you will say at a hearing about ECT

You can plan what you want to say at your hearing about ECT by writing down:

  • what you understand about ECT
  • whether you want ECT and why
  • any other treatment you would prefer and why
  • anything in the report you think is wrong.

Find out more about how to prepare for your Tribunal hearing