Psychosurgery Review Board

Dr Freckelton QC was both a Community Member nominated by the Council for Civil Liberties (1997-2005) and a Lawyer Member (2010-2015) of the Psychosurgery Review Board.

Until July 2014 he role of the Board was to determine whether psychosurgery should be performed upon a person in Victoria. See the Boatrd’s website at: http://www.prb.vic.gov.au/index.html

Psychosurgery was defined by s54(1) of the Mental Health Act 1986 (Vic) as:

(a)  any surgical technique or procedure by which one or more lesions are
created in a person’s brain on the same or on separate occasions
primarily for the purpose of altering the thoughts, emotions or
behaviour of that person; or

(b)  the use of intracerebral electrodes to create one or more lesions in a
person’s brain on the same or on separate occasions primarily for the
purpose of altering the thoughts, emotions or behaviour of that
person; or

(c)  the use of intracerebral electrodes to cause stimulation through the
electrodes on the same or on separate occasions without creating a
lesion in the person’s brain for the purpose of influencing or
altering the thoughts, emotions or behaviour of that person.

Under s65 of the Mental Health Act 1986 (Vic), the Psychosrugery Review Board could only order psychosurgery if satisfied that:

(a) the person in respect of whom the application is made has the capacity to give informed consent  to the performance of the proposed psychosurgery;
(b) the person in respect of whom the application is made has in fact given informed consent to the performance of the proposed psychosurgery;
(c) the proposed psychosurgery has clinical merit and is appropriate;
(d) any person proposing to perform the psychosurgery is properly qualified;
(e) the service, hospital or clinic in which it is proposed to perform the psychosurgery is an appropriate place;
(f) all other reasonable treatments have already been adequately and skilfully administered without sufficient and lasting benefit;
(g) proper notice of the hearing has been given.

Dr Freckelton is currently researching the history and decision-making of the Board over its first 25 years.