Thousands get controversial shock therapy

Sarah Hall
Oct. 4, 2006
Norwich Evening News 24

Health bosses have come under fire today after it was revealed that almost 3,000 patients have been given electric shock therapy in the past three years to treat depression and other mental health problems.

Campaigners have called electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), barbaric and claimed patients’ lives were being ruined.

Figures obtained from the West Norfolk Primary Care Trust and the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust under the Freedom of Information Act showed there were 2,837 administrations in Norfolk since 2002. ECT is banned in countries including Holland and Italy.

Chris Wrapson, spokesman for the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), founded by the Church of Scientology in 1969, said: “ECT is a violation of human rights. It is torturous and barbaric with horrendous side effects. There are nearly 3,000 cases of therapy in Norfolk and this is not acceptable.”

According to the CCHR, ECT involves:

A person being given powerful drugs;

A current reaching up to 500 volts sent through a pad on the head;

This often leads to a patient having a seizure or blacking out.

A Royal College of Psychiatrists survey conducted on psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general practitioners, confirmed memory loss was a side effect of ECT. Of the 1,344 psychiatrists surveyed, 21pc referred to “long-term side effects and risks of brain damage, memory loss and intellectual impairment”. General practitioners reported that 34pc of patients seen in the months after receiving ECT “were poor or worse”.

Dr Hadrian Ball, the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust’s medical director, said: “Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a well-recognised and effective treatment for some forms of serious mental illness, most usually severe depression.

“The use of ECT is determined by strict guidelines that have been set out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. ECT is only used within the trust in complete accordance with these national guidelines and with the law. When psychiatrists make decisions as to whether ECT is required, this is done on the basis of a full assessment of the potential risks and potential benefits to – and the views of – the individual service user.”

What is ECT?

Introduced in the 1930s as a treatment for schizophrenia, electrotherapy was found to cause changes in depressive disorders.

Medical experts say it is a rapid and effective treatment for severe depressive disorders.

Its main benefits come from its efficacy and speed and it is said to be beneficial where there is a high risk of suicide or danger to health because the patient is not eating or drinking enough.

In severe postpartum depression, it may help with the early development of the bond between mother and child.

The effectiveness of ECT depends upon the induction of a convulsion thorough an electric shock. Two important factors in ECT are the amount by which the electrical dose exceeds the seizure threshold of the patient; and where the electrodes are placed on the body.

Adverse effects include confusion, nausea and vertigo. People may also suffer muscle pain in their jaw. There have been reports of seizures for months after ECT. People’s teeth, tongue or lips may be damaged if a gag is not positioned properly and small electrical burns can occur if electrodes are not properly applied.

Anyone with information on adverse reactions to psychiatric drugs is asked to contact the CCHR on 0845 260 2247.

Do you have a mental health story for the Evening News? Contact Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or e-mail

Comments (1)

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