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Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) of Prisoner Halted

In re Terraza Docket: E077170 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: January 12, 2022. The Acting Warden of the California Institute for Men petitioned a Superior Court for authorization to perform electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on inmate Rudy Terraza. Convicted of first-degree murder at age 17, Terraza was a 44-year-old with a history of mental illness. According to a prison psychiatrist, Terraza has a “schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type . . . characterized by auditory hallucinations, delusions, and impairment in thought processing, volition and motivation, and social functioning, as well as significant mood swings, depression, and mania.” Despite medication and psychiatric treatment, his mental health had grown worse over time, and he had resided in a psychiatric hospital since September 2019. He had been “consumed” by voices, with no desire to socialize or “practice self-care.” He occupied a single hospital room and was unable to function in standard prison housing. A psychiatrist averred that ECT was the “gold standard” treatment for patients like Terraza; seizures produced by the treatment would "help the brain return to normal functioning." The trial court authorized ECT after making several findings required by the Penal Code, including that ECT would be beneficial and that there was a compelling justification for it. In this habeas proceeding, the inmate argued the state constitutional right to privacy required the appointment of a surrogate to make a consent determination for him, beyond trial court findings of ECT’s suitability. Upon consideration of precedent, the Court of Appeal concluded the state constitutional right to refuse medical treatment did not require appointment of a surrogate decisionmaker. Nevertheless, the Court concluded that a court’s authorization of ECT therapy had to include a consideration of whether the inmate, when he or she was competent, expressed any preferences, views, or beliefs that would operate to preclude consent to the procedure. "By statute, such consideration is required for most medical procedures performed on incarcerated persons lacking capacity to consent." Because the statutory balancing test for ECT did not do so, the Court granted the writ to allow further consideration. #electroconvulsivetherapy #prisonershocktreatment #ect

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