By Carl O’Brien
February 2, 2010
A major debate is unfolding over the use of forced ECTon psychiatric patients
SHOULD A mentally ill patient in distress be forced to undergo electric shock treatment against his or her will?
It’s a question which goes to the heart of a growing debate over one of the most controversial and invasive procedures used in psychiatric care.
Rightly or wrongly, no other treatment arouses as much fear as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Depending on who you talk to, ECT is an effective and fast-acting treatment for severe depressive disorders, or it is a potentially dangerous procedure unsupported by research and whose side effects include long-term memory loss.
The growing recognition of patients’ human rights, as well as lobbying by organised advocacy groups, means the issue is now on the political agenda. But the debate is wider than just use of this procedure; it also touches on the key question of just how much power and responsibility should we place in the hands of consultant psychiatrists?
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