Letter: Shock treatment: fears and facts

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Sir: Congratulations on your report about the alleged abuses at Broadmoor and in particular the use of ECT without muscle relaxant or anaesthetic. Scandalous as this was, it raises the question of an even greater abuse - the routine and accepted use of ECT on 130,000 people a year.

This is a treatment lacking a rationale for its use or convincing evidence for its effectiveness. Officially reserved for the most severely depressed, it is in fact given to a wide range of patients depending largely on the personal preference of the psychiatrist (some of whom use it 17 times as frequently as others).

It appears to 'work', if at all, by obliterating memories - a known after-effect of any serious injury to the head. This would explain the frequent complaints by patients about permanent memory loss - a complaint that is still being ignored and discounted by psychiatrists.

Most lay people wrongly assume that the use of ECT died out years ago. This is not true. Not only unmodified ECT, but ECT in any form, needs to be seen for the primitive and damaging procedure that it is.

Yours sincerely,


Senior Lecturer in

Clinical Psychology

University of the West of England


9 December