Children `should not face electro therapy'

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The Independent Online
A specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry is calling on the Royal College of Psychiatrists to ban electric shock treatment in children under 16.

Dr Tony Baker says in tomorrow's edition of the Lancet that ECT - electro-convulsive therapy - is "never the only clinical solution."

Dr Baker, who works at the Ashwood Centre, Woking, Surrey, gives examples of ECT being used on a six-year-old boy suffering from the rare condition Gilles de Tourette's syndrome, in which the patient suffers from convulsive movements and episodes of using foul language.

In another case the Mental Health Act was used to override objections by the parents of a girl who "clearly had post traumatic stress disorder after a gang rape," Dr Baker writes.

He says that about 60 cases of ECT being used on minors are recorded a year but this ignores the teenagers who are admitted to adult psychiatric units.

"Young skulls have a lower electrical resistance and for the same electric charge will be exposed to higher current than older skulls."

Yet, he says: "There are no controls for the administration of ECT provided that the patient (or their parents) give consent." But he questions the ethics of consent. In a `Catch 22' he suggests: "You might have been made to say yes but deemed incompetent to refuse."

Dr Black says that a moratorium on ECT in under 16s will only succeed if doctors under the leadership of the royal college agree.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said yesterday that guidance on the use of ECT in under 18s was being actively considered and a paper was due to be discussed by the council. "Our information is that ECT is used rarely on children andonly in extreme circumstances."

It is believed the royal college guidance will advise great caution in its use in young people.