The State Government has backed down on controversial proposals in the Mental Health Bill that would have allowed children as young as 12 to undergo treatments such as electro-convulsive therapy and psychosurgery.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton tabled an amended Bill yesterday after the draft laws, which received 1200 written submissions, sparked community outrage.

It was also amended to include the presumption that a person under 18 was not capable of consenting to treatment, after concerns were raised that children as young as 12 could consent to sterilisation under the previous draft Bill.

Mrs Morton said the minimum age children could receive ECT and psychosurgery would be increased from 12 to 14.

She said although psychosurgery had not been used in WA since the 1970s, experts had told her some emerging forms of treatment could be described as psychosurgery and might be used in the future.

While old forms of psychosurgery involved removing a part of the brain, modern forms involve using electrodes to stimulate the brain to treat severe depression.

ECT aims to treat mental illness by inducing a controlled seizure in the patient.

Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Michelle Scott said she was pleased the Bill had been revised to ensure ECT would not be given to children aged 14 to 18 without the approval of the Mental Health Tribunal, which will replace the Mental Health Review Board.

Ms Scott had been concerned safeguards for young people were insufficient in the draft Bill.

Australian Medical Association WA psychiatry spokesman Paul Skerritt said restricting ECT use was irrational because it was "one of the most safest and effective treatments in medicine".

Dr Skerritt said severely ill patients would suffer unnecessarily while waiting for permission from the tribunal.

He praised the minister for allowing transport officers, who had expertise in mental health, to take involuntary patients to hospital.

Now only police could transport them and they ended up way down the priority list because police had all sorts of other jobs and limited resources, Dr Skerritt said.

The revised Bill is out for public comment until February.

The West Australian

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