European committee probe to test legality of Irish Mental Health Act

THE European Parliament’s Petitions Committee is investigating claims by two former mental health patients that the Mental Health Act is in clear violation of international law.

MEP Kathy Sinnott, committee vice-president, is leading a number of MEPs on a fact-finding mission.

Ms Sinnott has arranged to meet John McCarthy and Mary Maddock, both from Cork, who believe recent changes in international and EU law call into question the legality of the Irish law.

Mr McCarthy said he agreed to undergo electric convulsive therapy (ECT) while under heavy medication. His wife intervened and stopped doctors proceeding with the treatment.

While he no longer takes any type of medication, he is determined to stop the current legal situation where patients could be forced to undergo ECT on the say-so of two doctors.

“I am one of the lucky ones, as I have a wonderful wife and family who stood by me and allowed me to keep my dignity,” he said.

Ms Maddock said her treatment began in 1976 after her first child’s birth. She was treated with neuroleptics and ECT for a chemical imbalance in her brain.

Ms Maddock said she got no information about the treatment and was in no state to evaluate it. She remained on a combination of drugs for almost 20 years: “I am free from drugs for over seven years and now aged almost 60 years am leading a healthy and free life in body, mind and spirit.”

The committee will also investigate claims of rampant quarrying in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, and the failure of local authorities to take action to stop vandals and joyriders destroying a private housing estate in Weston Gardens, Limerick.

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