Unfortunately her story also contributes to the negative public image attached to ECT therapy. Although of little sensational news value, it is a fact that this treatment is daily used to bring relief to those patients whose severe biological depression is resistant to drug treatment or where very rapid improvement is vital, as in actively suicidal patients. It is performed only under general anaesthetic and side-effects are transitory and generally well tolerated.
While it is all too true that many find the idea of ECT frightening - and the media could help redress this balance - patients' actual experience of it is rather different. Freeman and Kendall's survey in 1980 of 166 patients having ECT found that after treatment 50 per cent felt that a visit to the dentist was more frightening.
Senior Registrar in Psychiatry
St Martin's Hospital