Today (8 January 2018) the Scottish Daily Mail ran a feature about electroconvulsive therapy, which can be seen here. The author, home affairs editor Graham Grant, talks about an investigation and it looks as if he has sent off some freedom of information requests to health boards, as well as having spoken to the chairman of the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN), Dr Alistair. The article identifies the youngest and oldest patients in Scotland: in Greater Glasgow a 16-year-old was given ECT, while in Forth Valley a 93-year-old was treated.
The average age of patients is around 65 years, because, the article says “older people tend to suffer very few side effects”. I wonder where the author got that idea from.
The article recognizes that ECT can cause memory loss, but goes on to say: “Experts believe administering voltage to only one side of the brain may limit this side-effect”. Experts (if by experts you mean psychiatrists) have believed this for over 60 years, but they persist in using the more damaging electrode placement, bilateral. If the author had read the latest annual report from SEAN, he would have seen that 98 per cent of ECT courses in Scotland in 2016 involved bilateral ECT.
The newspaper did a brief interview with a woman who had had ECT in 2014, but had stopped after two or three treatments as it left her feeling more traumatised than before. Stopping treatment before the end of a course is not a rare occurrence: the SEAN report for 2014 showed 19 per cent of courses were not completed as planned.