ECT pamphlet withdrawn in Australia

Reported by Wayne Smith
West Australia Desk
October 2001

Distribution of a pamphlet on electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatment) published by the Mental Health Division of the Health Department of West Australia, has been discontinued, following a complaint.

The pamphlet which was supplied to the public from six State operated shock facilities, the Guardianship and Administration Board, the Office of the Public Advocate and elsewhere, contained false and misleading information which served to recklessly misguide the most vulnerable members of the community, and their family and friends.

The pamphlet which carried the government seal, described ECT as a "small electric current," even though the strength of current in ECT, induced a grand-mal seizure and the Australian Safety Standards gives no such value as "small" to electric current.

The pamphlet also claimed that "There is no medical evidence that the brain is damaged," even though the medical literature is littered with such instances from both the historic use and the modern method of ECT. In fact, there is a small added risk of brain damage in the modern method, from the anesthetic alone.

The pamphlet and its content which "helps answer questions" was being used by psychiatrists in the process of obtaining 'informed consent' while avoiding the obligation of a truthful disclosure.

As of October 2001, the pamphlet "Electroconvulsive therapy" catalogue No: HP6824 - has been given the official status, "OBSOLETE"

For what it is worth, we are assured by the Health department today by phone, that they will not be publishing any information in the future on the topic of ECT.