- ECT gives a big jolt of electricity to the
- The first official figures for eight years on the use
controversial electric shock treatment show that hundreds of people
were treated against their will.
- The figures show 2,800 patients
therapy (ECT) over a three month period from
January to March 1999.
- In total, there were approximately 16,500
of ECT during the period.
- There were 900 male patients
receiving treatment, compared
with 1,900 female patients.
- Forty-four per cnt of
female patients and 36% of male
patients receiving ECT were aged 65 and
quarter of ECT patients were formally detained under
the Mental Health
- Of the 700 ECT patients formally detained whilst receiving
treatment, 59% did not consent to treatment.
- First step to
- Campaigners hope the move could mark the first step to
- The last Department of Health figures were issued in
was hoped use of electro-convulsive therapy (ECT)
would continue to be
monitored through more general health statistics.
- But a spokeswoman said the data
was too vague so a snapshot
survey, looking at the gender, age and
possibly ethnicity of ECT patients,
- It is unclear whether
this will become a regular survey.
- The government figures come
after much lobbying by campaigners.
Last year a 10-minute rule bill by
MP John Gunnell which called for restrictions
on ECT use was talked
- No consent
- Mental health campaigners hope it will be the first step
towards an end to the use of ECT without consent and a ban on its use for
people under 16.
- Charity Mind estimates about 20,000 people a year receive
in England and Wales.
- Around 2,000 are given the treatment without their
after they have been forcibly committed to hospital.
- Mind says some are
given it even though they have had
bad experiences in the past and say
they do not want it.
- Opinions on the effectiveness of ECT vary among both
experts and patients. Some believe it is barbaric and destroys the brain
while others say it can help up to 80% of patients who are on the point
- The process, which has been used for more than 60 years,
involves giving an electric shock to the brain. Techniques have been
in recent years to make the practice safer.
- Mind says no-one
really knows how it works and what its
long-term effects are.
- A spokeswoman said:
"It is so risky and severe.
The side effects can be very severe,
including short- or long-term memory
loss, coma and possibly
- Older women
- Mind believes older women are
more likely to be given
the treatment repeatedly than others.
- "Part of the
reason may be that they are slightly
more likely to suffer from severe
depression than men, but that cannot
be the whole explanation,"
said the spokeswoman.
- Mind hopes the Department of Health figures will open
the way for an independent audit of ECT, as occurs in Scotland.
- The Royal College of
Psychiatrists has expressed concern
about the way the treatment is
- In a recent report, it said ECT was often administered
poorly trained junior doctors, who may be left unsupervised with