Canadian Patients Fight Forced Electroshock
By DARRYL GREER
VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) — A retired nurse, a Harvard-educated musician and others sued British Columbia this week, claiming it forcibly subjects mental health patients to electroconvulsive therapy and drugs with dangerous side effects, in violation of the Canadian Constitution.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities joined retired nurse Mary Louise MacLaren and musician D.C. on Monday in British Columbia Supreme Court, seeking to quash sections of the province’s Mental Health Act.
The “impugned provisions” deem patients involuntarily committed unable to give or revoke consent to psychiatric treatment, leaving the responsibility to a “temporary substitute decision maker.”
MacLaren says she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1986 and has been an “involuntary patient” since February 2012, but has been allowed to live in the community since January this year. She says she was forcibly subjected to undergo electroconvulsive therapy and made to take psychotropic medications that can have serious and irreversible side-effects.
“Being subjected to forced psychiatric treatment has caused Ms. MacLaren severe psychological pain and stress,” the complaint states. “Undergoing forced ECT is very traumatic for Ms. MacLaren. She experiences extreme anxiety when she is told she must undergo ECT treatment.”
MacLaren says she shattered her teeth during one treatment when staff forgot to put in a mouth guard. Now she fears seeking treatment at all “because any contact with health care providers could lead to certification as an involuntary patient and a complete loss of control over decision-making for her treatment.”
Plaintiff D.C. has a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science and music from Harvard and a master’s in music and piano performance from the New England Conservatory of Music. He has been committed as an involuntary patient since July 2015, and living in his community since January this year.
D.C. has not been definitively diagnosed with a mental illness but “doctors have queried whether D.C. has, or have diagnosed D.C. with, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, psychotic disorder, psychosis not otherwise specified, major or mild neurocognitive disorder due to a traumatic brain injury, psychotic disorder due to traumatic brain injury, Asperger’s syndrome, schizophreniform disorder, schizophrenia, post-concussive syndrome from traumatic brain injury, substance induced psychosis, and attention deficit disorder,” according to the complaint.
D.C. says he was forced to take antipsychotic medication and was injected while restrained when he refused to take the drugs orally.
They seek declaratory judgment that certain sections of the Mental Health Act, the Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act, and the Representation Agreement Act are unconstitutional because they infringe upon rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
They are represented by Laura Johnston with the Community Legal Assistance Society, and McCarthy Tetrault, both in Vancouver.