Woman 'screamed' after 999 shock therapy

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The Independent Online
A woman who was given electric shock therapy to stop her making bogus 999 calls claimed yesterday the treatment caused her to "scream in agony", left her with difficulty in moving her arm and even resulted in difficulty reading.

Thelma Dennis, 33, was released on two years' probation after admitting at Aberdare Magistrates Court, Mid Glamorgan, that she made three bogus emergency service calls following the shock therapy. The order was granted on condition she made no further emergency calls.

The therapy involved Miss Dennis having her fingers taped to wires containing an electric current while doctors told her to dial 999 on a special phone. She claimed to have screamed in pain as an electric current shot through her body.

Such conditioning therapy has been controversially used by psychiatrists almost since the discovery of electricity. Classic experiments in psychology have used electrical currents to illustrate authority and subservience. However, some schools of psychiatry have regarded its more severe forms as unorthodox and unethical.

In Ms Dennis's case the therapy failed. She was charged with making bogus calls to the fire service.

Yesterday, the court was told that Ms Dennis was previously convicted of making similar hoax calls. She volunteered to undergo the shock therapy at Parc Hospital in Bridgend. Her solicitor, Denis Bryant, said Ms Dennis, who is unemployed, was arrested after firefighters and ambulancemen were called to a false alarm near her home in Mountain Ash, Mid Glamorgan. She admitted making the hoax call. She was put on probation after agreeing to have counselling.

After accepting the court's sentence, which included pounds 277 compensation to the fire service, Ms Dennis said: "I've made hundreds of hoax 999 calls. I just can't help myself. I've been to prison seven times for the calls so when the magistrates offered me the electric shock treatment I agreed to give it a go."

She said the treatment was "barbaric" and the worst thing she had done. "It left me in agony and I still have problems with my arms. The doctors used to strap my right arm to a telephone and attach wires to the fingers of my left hand. When they told me to dial 999 I got an electric shock after the last number and I used to shout out with the pain." However, within a month of the treatment, her finger was dialling 999 again.

Ms Dennis, a former sewing machinist, who lives with her four-year-old daughter, is considering legal action over the treatment.

She also said she suffered from daily convulsions in her arms and that her daughter was frightened to come near her in case she gave her static electricity shocks. She branded the hospital a "torture chamber".