Thursday, 17 December 2015
Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages
The Title of this Bill, Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008, was changed from Mental Health (Involuntary Procedures) (Amendment) Bill 2008.
This is a Seanad Bill that has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 118, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of these amendments. There is one group of amendments and the Minister will deal with the subject matter of those amendments. I have circulated the proposed groupings in the House. A Senator may contribute once on a grouping. I remind Senators that the only matter that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil.
I appreciate very much this opportunity to contribute. Before I comment briefly on the individual amendments that have been made to the Bill in the Dáil, I take this opportunity to thank Senators for their timely consideration of this short but important Bill. I thank Senator David Norris and former Senators Déirdre de Búrca and Dan Boyle, all of whom originally sponsored the legislation when it was introduced in 2008 as a Private Members’ Bill. I acknowledge the role played by mental health campaigners in general and the late John McCarthy in particular. John, as everyone will know, was instrumental in raising awareness and developing the concept of Mad Pride Ireland. I acknowledge his tireless work in seeking an end to the practise of administering electroconvulsive therapy, ECT, to patients with capacity who refused such treatment. As most people know, John died. It is sad that he was not here to see what he had campaigned for over such a long period.
The revised Bill, which I am returning to the Seanad today, still delivers on the original intention of the legislation which was passed in this House in 2011 and achieves the purpose of ensuring that when a person with capacity refuses ECT, this decision will be respected. The amendments that were made in the Dáil last week tidy up an error in the original Bill, as agreed here in the Seanad, and introduce some minor technical changes. I have introduced an amendment to section 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001 that will ensure that when a patient with capacity refuses medicine after a three-month period, this decision will also be respected. The essence of the Bill, therefore, is in deleting the word “unwilling” from both sections 59 and 60 of the Mental Health Act 2001.
If the Bill is passed in the House today, I plan to sign a commencement order in January 2016, with a likely effective date of 1 February 2016. This will give the Mental Health Commission sufficient time to make the changes necessary to allow this new law to come into operation. I ask the Cathaoirleach to have motions moved in regard to the four sections of the revised Mental Health (Amendment) Bill 2008 which was passed in the Dáil last week and received all-party support.
This Bill affects a very small group. Nevertheless, with the passage this morning of the capacity legislation, which will have a profound effect on the lives of everyone, be they young, middle-aged or old, and the scheme of the new mental health legislation that is currently being worked on, we now have a body of legislation that will bring us into the 21st century and also serve us well beyond that. However, our opinions and methods of operation will all change. I am very glad this small but significant Bill is passing with all-party support. I thank everyone for their contributions.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, to the House to deal with this Bill which she claims is small but highly significant. I really welcome it. This is an important and progressive day for our legislation on mental health treatment and involuntary treatment. We have had many debates on this. In the lifetime of the previous Seanad, I recall debating ECT administration and just how impassioned that debate was. I am really glad we have finally made this amendment. I compliment the Minister of State and her officials on all the work they have done on it. This is also a progressive day because we passed the capacity legislation. I thank the Minister of State.
This day, 17 December, is a great day. It is my wedding anniversary also. It is great to see all this legislation going through the House. It is shocking, however, that this matter has featured since 2008. It is a great credit to the Minister of State that she acknowledged the three Senators who sponsored the original Bill. It proves the system works, although one may no longer be a Member when the legislation eventually gets over the line. It is great to see legislation that not only brings us into the 21st century but also brings us forward. Well done.
I congratulate the Minister of State. I saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest". I did not believe I would ever see the person who abolished the pain inflicted on patients against their will. As Senator Conway said, this is a great day. I congratulate all concerned on achieving this goal.
I thank the Minister of State for bringing forward this Bill and for all the legislation that has been passed over the past three weeks. Of all the Ministers, she has been here more often than any other. I thank her for the time she has devoted to all the Bills that have passed through this House in the past three to four weeks, in particular, and also over the past four years. Much of the legislation was very difficult and technical. The Minister of State dealt with it and explained fully every point that was raised.I thank her for bringing forward this legislation and also for her work on all of the other legislative measures that have gone through the House over the last few weeks.
I wish all Members a very happy Christmas. It is a well-deserved break not just from the political point of view but also for officials in the Departments and the Houses, who are often anonymous and invisible but without whom we could not function. I wish them a very happy Christmas as well and I hope they have a well-deserved rest.