Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (Friday, 26 August 2005) . . Page.. 3301 ..
on Health and Disability and urge others to consider supporting this proposal, which I will put in the detail phase of this bill.
In closing, I would like to say that I have heard and listened to very strong arguments for and against this bill. Unlike most other MLAs, I am sure that I have been visited and talked to by lots of people who are very deeply concerned that the implications of this bill may mean that people will lose control over the way they are treated. Many of these arguments have implications well beyond the amendments that we are debating today.
In particular, I have heard considerable debate on the benefits and risks of ECT treatment. At one end of the spectrum there are those who argue that ECT is an inappropriate and ineffective form of treatment that should never be part of the suite of treatments offered to ACT mental health patients and at the other end of the spectrum there are those who argue that ECT is very effective but largely misunderstood and needs to be better promoted to become more acceptable.
This controversy is particularly virulent within the field of psychiatry and is not limited to those outside the professional ranks. I do not have expertise in psychiatric treatment. Consequently, I do not feel that I am in a position to determine the relative merits of this form of treatment. I also recognise that, while ECT is a highly controversial form of treatment, so are other forms of psychiatric treatment. People experiencing a severe psychotic episode are very vulnerable and the services provided to them can be particularly challenging.
How do we support people in a respectful and humane way when their decision-making capacity may be compromised and behaviour disturbed? How do we protect their safety and that of others while also building trust and providing choice? These are not easy questions, but this is an area of rapidly evolving practice. For example, I have heard that new models for providing intensive community-based support to people in acute need are proving highly effective as alternatives to hospital-based care.
I believe that there would be value in the Standing Committee on Health and Disability undertaking a broad-ranging inquiry into crisis care for people in the ACT with mental health issues. I see this as a constructive opportunity to examine the systemic issues of service mix, treatment options, decision-making process and mechanisms for strengthening consumer participation. I intend to write to the chair of the committee and request that such an inquiry be considered. I hope that there will be interest on both sides of the chamber.
We are not here today as experts on mental health and the appropriate treatment of people in emergencies, but we are here as representatives of the community and representatives of those people are very concerned about our decisions today. For that reason, I believe that we need to have more deliberation.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (9.49): I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Amendment Bill. This bill enables the provision of urgent and necessary treatment to people through and amendment to the current act.