Newcastle Chronicle
June 1997

CHRONICLE SPECIAL REPORT:
FAMILIES TRAGIC CAMPAIGN

'They told us shock treatment would cure our loved ones -
now they are dead.'


Exclusive by Pete Leydon

Electric shock treatment used on North East hospital patients has left a trail of death and misery, their families revealed today.

Now they have joined a growing campaign to outlaw controversial shock therapy used every year on thousands of psychiatric patients.

Popular grandmother Vy Dixon was one of those persuaded by doctors to have ECT for a bout of depression.

A week after the course of treatment at Newcastle General Hospital, the 67 year old drowned herself in Killingworth Lake, close to her home in Westmoor, North Tyneside.

Heartbroken daughter Denise Connolly, also of Westmoor, said: "The family thought ECT was the only option left. She had 10 sessions and, at first, it seemed to work. But the following day she was very ill and she went down hill from then on. She complained of horrific shaking in her body, but the doctors said she would be fine and discharged her. She disappeared three nights later and her body was found the next morning in the lake. ECT drove her over the edge."

Ivy Robinson also suffered from anxiety and was told ECT would cure her.

But after treatment the 76 year old, from Westerhope, Newcastle, suffered huge memory loss.

Her health rapidly deteriortated and when she had a stroke, brain X-rays showed dozens of tiny blood clots her family believe were caused by ECT.

Ivy's sister Eileen Brailsford, 75, of Westerhope, said: "She was like a zombie when she came out of hospital. She had no memory, she staggered around, and was very weepy. She was never the same. When I found her slumped on the floor after a stroke I was almost expecting it. ECT is a horrific and barbaric treatment which destroyed my sister's life."

Ivy is now in Tyneside nursing home where she has 24 hour attention.

Robert Allen, 46, suffered schizophrenia and had five courses of shock treatment over a 12 week period.

Five days after leaving hospital he hanged himself.

His devastated brother Ronnie, 63, from Hartlepool, had cared for him for years. He said: "I feel so angry and frustrated to think all the love and care I gave him was destroyed".

Ronnie now devotes his time getting a petition to outlaw ECT. He already has 3,000 names.

Laura Pilkington, from Stanley, Co Durham, had two sessions of the treatment to try to cure agoraphobia.

Soon after, she couldn't eat or drink, and didn't recognise her family.

Her weight plummeted and she died in hospital three months after the ECT sessions.

Dozens of other families across the region have contacted the Tyneside branch of the Citizens Commission for Human Rights to join the fight against the therapy.

Andrew Gill, of Newcastle CCHR, said: "There is mounting evidence that ECT does a great deal of harm, and we feel that psychiatrists have not proved anything in terms of its effectiveness. They've had enough time to experiment with people's brains."

A spokeswoman for Newcastle City Health NHS Trust said they could not comment on individual cases involving psychiatric patients.