Letter: Consent to ECT

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Annabel Ferriman ("The Shocking Truth", 4 May) touched on an important point in the use of electro-convulsive therapy: the issue of consent and, more particularly, informed consent.

People with severe clinical depression are extremely vulnerable and need protection sometimes from themselves. Unfortunately, the very people who are being advised (coerced?) to have ECT are often those who are least able to make a decision about such drastic treatment and are therefore incapable of giving any form of consent at all, let alone informed consent.

It is not sufficient for doctors to get such patients to sign a consent form and then claim that the patient voluntarily agreed to have ECT. By the time you are so ill that ECT is being considered, you are probably beyond comprehension of most things and any explanation of risks and benefits would be meaningless. A real decision, and therefore the giving of informed consent, is impossible. I write from personal experience.

The Government should provide for the representation of patients being offered ETC by a suitably trained and objective third party, such as a Mental Health Advocate.