ECT in the headlines in Scotland

Today’s papers in Scotland have some graphic headlines about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): “Inquiry launched as ‘electric shock’ blunder raids mum’s memory bank” says The Scotsman; “Docs wipe out mum’s memory” says The Scottish Sun, while The Herald Scotland goes with “Electric shock probe after wrong treatment blunder”.

The story concerns a young women who was prescribed unilateral ECT but ended up having bilateral treatment when the clinic where she was being treated (at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow) ignored her psychiatrist’s instructions. She has been left with memory loss. What the articles do not point out is that it is in fact the vast majority of ECT patients in Scotland receive bilateral rather than unilateral treatment. It is unusual for someone in Scotland to be prescribed unilateral ECT. The Scottish ECT Accreditation Network’s annual report has the statistics:

“During 2009, 93% of episodes [courses] involved bilateral, and 14 unilateral, treatments. There was a change of treatment mode in 10% of ECT courses. The use of unilateral ECT has increased since 2006 when 9% of episodes involved such treatments”.

Stobhill hospital, according to the report, gave 49 courses of ECT to 40 patients in 2009, a total which included patients from the Vale of Leven, Parkhead and Gartnavel Royal hospitals.

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9 Responses to ECT in the headlines in Scotland

  1. Don Weitz says:

    I’ll bet that most of the people shocked in Scotland were women – 2 to 3 times more women than me are electroshocked in Canada, the United States, and Ireland. i also bet that 50% of these women were over 60 years old, never gave ‘informed consent’, and suffered brain damage. This so-called “safe and effective treatment” is also sexist and ageist. ECT is and always was a memory-destroying, brain-damaging, and severely traumatic psychiatric procedure that should have been abolished years ago. Many of us psychiatric survivors, social justice activists and other allies including several dissident doctors and other health professionals in Canada, UK, ireland, the USA, and other countries want it totally abolished.
    Don Weitz
    member of Coordinating Committee, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault

    • And you would win your bet! From the annual report for ECT in Scotland, 2009:
      “The higher percentage of females (69%) to males (32%) treated with ECT reflects the relative percentage of patients being treated for depressive illness”
      They don’t actually give us the figures for women v men treated in hospital for depression. I think it is more women than men, but not such a big difference.
      Looking at fig1.3 in the above report, I think slightly under half of the women were over 60 years old, but pretty close.
      As for informed consent – this is what The Mental Welfare Commission in Scotland says patients should be told about ECT:
      “ECT should not cause any lasting damage to your memory”. That is on page 5 of this document

  2. Mary Maddock says:

    I am an electroshock survivor from Ireland. I received electroshock for the first time 3 days after the birth of my first child. It helped to confuse me so much that informed consent was impossible and at the same time I was put on very strong dosages of powerful neuroleptics.
    Many years later I am over 10 years free from psychiatric torture. With hindsight I can see clearly that electroshock leaves an everlasting trail of destructive brain damage and trauma. It should be abolished because it causes much more harm than good. Older women worldwide are at it’s mercy. There are many good effective ways to help people in distress. Let us assist people without causing brain damage!

  3. mr magoo says:

    I don’t understand the issue above if the person was prescribed unilateral ect & was gave bilateral ect surely there must be a reason for a doctor to prescribe either course of the treatment,so to say most people in scotland are giving bilateral it shouldn’t mean that anyone should get what most other people get as I think there must be a great difference in unilateral & bilateral or clearly shouldn’t a doctor just say ect?

    • I agree. I was commenting on the fact that one of the newspapers (The Herald) made it sound as if bilateral ECT was unusual in Scotland: “Staff at Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow gave her the controversial bilateral treatment, instead of unilateral therapy which is normally used first to minimise memory loss side-effects”, when in fact it is unilateral ECT that is rarely used in Scotland. But I agree, that doesn’t alter the fact that she was not given treatment as prescribed. I find it encouraging though that some notice has been taken of the error. There was a time when psychiatrists could be as careless as they liked with ECT.

  4. patbrodnik says:

    yes its becoming a crisis in the remaining countries that still use this barbaric treatment, australia’s ECT mortality rates boggle the brain, take a look at this horrifying update…

  5. mr magoo says:

    The doctor that gave this lady the wrong type of ect treatment should he not be made to leave his post as he did not do what he was meant too or what the patient consented too? can you maybe tell me how many patients have actully had unilateral ect treatment in stobhill hospital?

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