Organized Electroconvulsive Therapy Patients Challenge Flawed Research on `Quality of Life’.

PR Newswire; 11/5/2004

NEW YORK, and WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Nov. 5 /PRNewswire/ — The Committee for Truth in Psychiatry (CTIP) – a national organization of recipients of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – has challenged a new study from Wake Forest University, calling it scientifically worthless. The study claims that treatment with ECT improves patients’ quality of life and functioning.

“The author, W. Vaughn McCall, did not disclose that he is president of the ECT industry trade organization, the Association for Convulsive Therapy, which could bias his research towards minimizing the risks of ECT,” says CTIP director Linda Andre. McCall undertook his study after the British government recommended that ECT be used with caution because there is not enough good research on its effects on memory and quality of life. In a systematic review of existing research published in the British Medical Journal in 2003, England’s equivalent of the National Institute of Mental Health found that at least one out of three ECT patients suffers significant permanent memory loss.

CTIP says that financial and career conflicts of ECT researchers like McCall are behind the lack of quality research. “The real story, which you can’t get unless you read the study, is how they got those results; they asked about whether patients could function at the lowest levels imaginable,” says Andre. “It is not quality of life in any meaningful way.” Patients earn the highest possible scores on the questionnaires as long as they can get out of bed, feed and dress themselves, and use a toilet unaided instead of having bowel and bladder accidents.

But these are not the abilities affected by ECT. Rather, a significant number of ECT patients report permanent loss of memories of up to 20 years of their lives. They also report loss of skills and knowledge acquired prior to ECT, and permanent deficits in memory ability and cognitive function. Though the ECT industry has long claimed these deficits are imaginary, the British researchers disagreed.

“The McCall study compares apples to oranges,” says Andre. “I myself forgot my entire college education, and lost my ability to do graduate work and my career to ECT. But I can feed myself and even my cat, wipe my own behind, and get on a bus. By the standards of this study, my quality of life couldn’t be better.”

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