Doctors' powers to force severely depressed patients to have eloctroconvulsive therapy (ECT) will be reviewed by a High Court judge this week.

Doctors' powers to force severely depressed patients to have eloctroconvulsive therapy (ECT) will be reviewed by a High Court judge this week.

In the first case of its kind, a woman aged 41 who has refused ECT against her doctors' advice has been granted a judicial review of their power to impose it on her.

The outcome of the case, being brought under human rights legislation, could have implications for the 10,000 patients a year who are given ECT. Doctors say it can save the lives of patients suffering suicidal depression but it is the only treatment requiring a general anaesthetic which can be administered to a patient who has mental capacity without their consent.

The woman, identified only as K, was admitted to Springfield Hospital in south-west London in January where doctors planned to administer emergency ECT. But her lawyers obtained a temporary injunction on the evening of 8 January preventing the treatment, and the next morning applied for a judicial review of the case.

Although the woman is suffering from a mental illness, it is accepted by the doctors that she has mental capacity, said her barrister, Stephen Field. "She doesn't want her head plugged into the mains and she is quite capable of giving cogent reasons for her decision.''

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