Petition health minister over inclusion of archaic psychosurgery and electro-shock treatment, which is banned in many countries #MENTALHEALTH


Health Minister: Repeal of the   Draconian Mental Health Law

Posted On Friday, October 05, 2012 at 04:15:43 AM

Human rights activists are upset about a new proposed Mental Health Care bill that retains outdated and controversial treatment techniques such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and psychosurgery– neurosurgical treatment for mental disorders.While many term the draft bill as ‘patient friendly’, some activists feel that the bill represents the ‘over-medicalisation’ of mental health when it should instead concentrate on the most effective therapies.

On Thursday, activists started an online petition demanding the bill be quashed. The petition letter, addressed to Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad, demands that all rights of people with psychosocial disabilities should be covered under the recently drafted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012, and that the MHC Bill be given a quiet burial.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill guarantees the ‘legal capacity’ and the ‘right to choice’ of all persons with disabilities, including those with psychosocial disabilities.

“The MHC Bill, on the other hand, only looks at medicalisation of mental health issues. We are amazed that the bill retains the archaic and horrendous ECT or shock treatment, which has been banned by most countries,” said Kamayani Bali Mahabal, a lawyer and human rights activist.

According to Mahabal, the bill also retains the option of psychosurgery, which has always been controversial. “Mental health treatment needs to be more therapy-based than medicine-based,” said Mahabal.

The activists are of a view that mental health patients need community-based treatment with groups and peer support, neighborhood care systems, conflict reduction and peace building strategies, supportive counselling, addressing stigma, trauma-informed services, and a range of other alternatives.

According to Dr Sanjay Kumawat, medical superintendent of Thane Mental Hospital, the draft bill may need some modifications, but feels the demand to do away with ECT and psychosurgery is unreasonable. “ECT has proved beneficial for many patients. If ECT is performed following guidelines – using muscle relaxants and anesthesia – and is going to benefit the patient, I don’t see any harm,” said Kumawat.

Psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla agreed. “Patient benefit is the most important factor and I think this bill is extremely patient friendly. There are a few points that need clarity. For example, the bill says that patient’s consent is needed for any psychosurgery. However the bill does not explain if a nominee can give their consent if the patient is unable to do so,” said Matcheswalla.

Dr AK Kala, a senior psychiatrist from Ludhiana, added, “The old type of neurosurgeries, which landed patients in a vegetative state, are not performed anymore. In India, very few psychosurgeries are performed, and the bill is trying to regulate those. It states that a government committee has to approve all psychosurgeries, which is a good thing.”