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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 11 Hansard (24 September) . . Page.. 3151 ..

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Amendment Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 29 August 2002, on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (10.44): Mr Speaker, the opposition will be supporting this bill as well. It tidies up what is a problem for a number of people, and that is the potential that, when they exercise their right of appeal under the 1994 act, they actually might find that the treatment goes ahead prior to the appeal being determined. This effectively stays the treatment until such time as an appeal can go ahead, which I think is very much a commonsense provision to overcome this problem with the current act. Accordingly, the opposition will be supporting it.

MS TUCKER (10.45): Yes, the Greens will also be supporting this bill. It makes an important amendment to the system of determining care and treatment, and sometimes control, for people with mental illness or suffering from a mental dysfunction.

Although a decision of the Mental Health Tribunal was always appellable to the Supreme Court, there was nothing in the law to allow the court to stop the treatment ordered from proceeding while the appeal was heard, which was obviously an anomaly. This amendment instates that right and it is up to the court to judge in a particular case whether or not to order a stay. This bill empowers the court to make that decision but does not require it.

There may be some circumstances where the tribunal believes that the person is at risk of harming themselves or others, and in which the treatment or control ordered might be best going ahead while the appeal is heard. But clearly, particularly in the case of treatment such as electro-convulsive therapy, treatment cannot be undone, whatever the legal outcome of the appeal. I am informed that a case just like this example, of electro-convulsive therapy, precipitated this bill. The person concerned was represented by Legal Aid, which passed on their concerns to the government.

MS DUNDAS (10.46): People with mental illnesses and people with intellectual disabilities are among the most vulnerable in our community, and are the most likely to have their human rights abused. While we normally believe that adults have the right to refuse medical treatment, this right is often withdrawn from people with mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities. And not only is the right to refuse treatment often overridden, but the right to liberty is also regularly violated.

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