The Mental Health Act (MHA) 2001 has major implications for treating patients with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), especially as those referred for treatment are among the most severely ill and often lose capacity. Under the MHA 2001, a person may only be treated without consent if they are an involuntary patient. However, there is no provision in the Act for treating voluntary inpatients whose mental state has deteriorated but who do not seek to leave hospital. Such people may lack capacity to make treatment decisions but be passively compliant.
The Wards of Court system is currently the only legal recourse but has been criticised by the Law Reform Commission and is unwieldy. Further legislation governing treatment of people lacking capacity to consent to ECT or withhold consent is required to protect and advance treatment of all concerned.