ECT ‘should be abolished’, protesters tell rally in Cork

Anti-ECT group holds demonstration against use of ‘outdated and unsafe’ treatment

A public protest against  ECT in Cork on Saturday. Photograph: MindFreedom Ireland

A public protest against ECT in Cork on Saturday. Photograph: MindFreedom Ireland

 

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) remains an outdated and unsafe form of psychiatric treatment contrary to recent studies and should be abolished as a form of treatment in Ireland, a protest rally in Cork was told yesterday.

Some 20 anti-ECT campaigners staged the two hour protest in torrential rain on the Grand Parade in Cork centre on Saturday afternoon where speakers told of their experiences undergoing the controversial treatment.

The protest outside Bishop Lucey Park was organised by MindFreedom Ireland, a Cork based “psychiatric survivor” group which campaigns against forced treatments on patients.

MindFreedom Ireland spokesman, Jim Maddock, said ECT, formerly called electroshock therapy, was a highly controversial procedure. It involves passing electric current through the brain inducing a grand mal seizure.

“It is an extremely controversial procedure with proponents claiming it as an essential last resort treatment whereas critics say it causes trauma, brain damage and enduring memory loss, is outdated and dehumanising and call for its total abolition,” he said.

Among the speakers at the protest were two women in their 60s who spoke of the enduring memory loss and cognitive dysfunction they experienced after undergoing ECT treatment with one woman rejecting suggestions that ECT is “new, safe and effective”.

One of the women said, in her experience, there was no difference between ECT now and when she had it over 40 years ago. She said it was and still is a traumatic experience visited upon people who were already traumatised and vulnerable.

Mental Health Act

According to Mr Maddock, recent figures from The Mental Health Commission show twice as many women as men underwent ECT and only last month, the HSE applied for and were granted a High Court order to have a 16 year old girl undergo a programme of up to 10 rounds of the treatment.

Mr Maddock said the recently introduced Mental Health Amendment Act 2015 did not go far enough in terms of amending Section 59 of the Mental Health Act 2001 which governs the use of ECT in Ireland.

According to Section 59 of the Mental Health Act 2001, ECT will not be administered except where a patient gives their consent in writing or where the patient is “unable or unwilling” to give such consent, Mr Maddock said.

However, while the 2015 amendment removes the words “or unwilling” from the act, he said it still includes the word “unable” which effectively allows the decision to administer ECT in the hands of two psychiatrists in cases where there is no patient consent.

Another anti-ECT speaker at Saturday’s rally said that psychiatry was the only branch of medicine that deliberately induced seizures in patients under the guise of purporting to help or treat them.

While psychiatry says that ECT is “an important and necessary treatment”, the speaker said many psychiatrists themselves refused to utilise it and two European countries, Slovenia and Luxembourg, have totally banned its use.