Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 3306..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
committee. There are a number of reasons for that. I appreciate the concerns that Dr Foskey has raised, and certainly Dr Foskey's office did raise these with me on Wednesday of this week. This bill has been on the notice paper for a reasonable amount of time. For Dr Foskey's staff to come to my office on Wednesday did not really allow sufficient time to address her concerns. I suggest that, if they had approached my office or approached the minister's office earlier, these concerns could have quite properly been addressed.
Dr Foskey raised a wide range of issues regarding ECT and mental health treatment generally. These are concerns within the community that actually deals with people with mental health issues. Quite a bit of discussion goes on, not just about ECT, but also about appropriate treatment for people with mental health issues, full stop. The fact is we do not have the answers to questions about the most appropriate means of treating people with mental health issues. Medical science does not have the answers to those questions. As a result, many studies are being done into mental illness around the world.
I do not support this bill being referred to the committee because Dr Foskey is talking about a very wide-ranging inquiry, not an inquiry that is narrowly focused on the issue of ECT. She has raised a number of issues that would open up what I would consider a Pandora's box of mental health treatment generally, and specifically would bring a whole lot of people out of the woodwork submitting that we should not have ECT in the first place.
This is not an issue on which I have had no thoughts. I do have a disposition in this regard. My mother is manic-depressive and underwent ECT many years ago. I do not think it was the appropriate treatment for her. She does not believe it was the appropriate treatment for her, and my father eventually came to that opinion as well. It is my understanding that the psychiatric community now believes that it is inappropriate to treat people with manic depression or bipolar disorder with ECT, but that there are a number of psychiatrists who believe that the use of ECT is very beneficial for those people who have schizophrenia. I could be wrong about that, though, because I have not looked into this closely. I am also aware that there are a number of people out there, a number of families, who have lost loved ones and there have been arguments put forward that, if they had actually undergone ECT, those people may still be around.
I thought it was imperative, as chair of the committee to which Dr Foskey is seeking to refer this bill, to say that I do not support the motion. The type of inquiry that Dr Foskey is talking about is a very wide-ranging inquiry. If Dr Foskey wants the health and disability committee to look into mental health treatment options altogether, that is an issue that she should come and speak to the committee about as a separate issue. I do not believe that it should be tied in with this bill.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo-Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (10.11): Dr Foskey's reasoning for proposing to refer this bill to committee is, I have to say, pretty woolly. This bill is not about the efficacy or otherwise of ECT. This bill is not about the adequacy or otherwise of mental health services generally in the ACT. This bill is about whether or not ECT can be applied for through an emergency order process. That is what this bill is about.