Parents fight mental powers

THOUSANDS of Western Australians have signed a petition opposing radical changes to the WA mental health act which, if approved, will give psychiatrists the authority to treat children with or without parental consent.

The 6975-signature petition, presented to the WA parliament by Maylands Labor MP Lisa Baker:

• opposes psychiatric treatment—including electroshock and psychosurgery—of children without parental consent;

• opposes the involuntary detention of children in a mental health facility without parental consent;

• opposes the forced administration of mind-altering drugs to children without parental consent;

• opposes the restraint and seclusion of children without parental consent.

Lead petitioner Shelley Wilkins says the revised bill lodged in the WA parliament violates basic human rights.

“Under the new bill 14-year-olds can agree to electroshock and 16-year-olds to psychosurgery without parental consent,” she says.

“Correctly banned in NSW and the NT for all ages, psychosurgery irreversibly damages the brain by incision, burning or inserting electrodes through which an electrical current is sent as in deep brain stimulation.

“Electroshock is the application of hundreds of volts of electricity to the head which can cause memory loss, brain damage and sometimes death

“We ask that the legislative assembly take steps to ensure that no child is ever involuntarily committed or treated and that fully informed parental consent is always required for psychiatric treatment.”

Ms Wilkins says under the proposed amendments:

• any child regardless of age can be restrained in a psychiatric institution with the use of mechanical restraint (manacles, belts, straps, etc.) and bodily restraint

• a medical practitioner can legally order any child they “suspect” has a mental illness for examination at a psychiatric hospital.

Ms Baker broadly supports the petition: “Personally I don’t think that these treatments should be allowed to be approved by people under the age of 18,” she says.

“I agree with children’s commissioner on this point.”

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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