Matter of consent

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YOU reported (29 April) that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish Parliament exceeded its legislative competence when it passed the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003, the reason being that the act is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). It is possible that this is not the only act that is not ECHR compatible.

In particular, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 seems to be incompatible with certain convention rights.

Under Article 3 of the convention, inhuman or degrading treatment is prohibited in all circumstances. A definition of such treatment was provided in 2002 by the European Court of Human Rights (Pretty v UK). The definition is such that electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) clearly belongs in this prohibited category, unless it is given with 
informed consent. Indeed, in 2005, the World Health Organisation recommended: “If ECT is used, it should only be administered after obtaining informed consent.”

Now the 2003 Mental Health Act authorises the giving of ECT to a patient who “resists or objects to the treatment” and the SNP government appears not to be prepared to amend this section of the act. It seems to me that the SNP is not prepared to protect the Scottish people from this or other human rights violations that are authorised by the 2003 Mental Health Act.

W Hunter Watson

Aberdeen

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