MPs from across the political spectrum are calling for electric shock (ECT) to be used as a psychiatric treatment to be banned in England and want the practice urgently investigated.
MPs told The Independent they were genuinely concerned that electroconvulsive therapy was being offered disproportionately to women, and indicated that patients were not properly informed of the potential side effects of the treatment, and some patients reported that they were not asked to consent to the treatment before they received it.
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Public health doctor Dr Pallavi Devulapalli called on the government to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive review” of the treatment, warning that patients’ well-being was “at stake”.
Dr. Devolapalli, who is the spokesperson for the Green Party for health, social care and public health, said she fears that no new and reliable studies have been conducted on the subject of electric shock therapy since 1985, despite the existence of “reports that conveyed the accounts of several people who spoke of their harm and suffering.” things like memory loss and fatigue” after undergoing this treatment.
Some patients say electroconvulsive therapy has helped them improve their condition, while psychiatrists and the Department of Health and Welfare say the treatment is closely monitored and can help people for whom other therapies have failed.
These calls come in the wake of news in The Independent that thousands of women have received electroconvulsive therapy, despite concerns about the possibility of such treatment causing irreversible brain damage.
And health workers warned that severe side effects may make patients unable to distinguish family members or perform simple mathematical calculations. The Independent previously revealed that ECT was given disproportionately to women, who made up two-thirds of the total number of patients in 2019.
Robin Walker, the Conservative MP for Worcester and chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, said he had expressed concern about ECT and was interested in ensuring the government took an “evidence-based approach”.
“In light of the concerns being raised about ECT, we must call for it to be suspended pending a full review of the evidence and ensure all directives are fully adhered to,” he added.
For her part, Marsha de Cordova, the former shadow secretary of state for women and equality, said it was “very worrying” that more women than men undergo electroconvulsive therapy, and that patients were not “received sufficient warnings about side effects.”
The Labor MP for Battersea continued, “Given that this treatment can cause severe neurological disorders, I believe it should be suspended pending a review of its impact on patients’ long-term health.”
It comes after Dr Sue Cunliffe, who began undergoing electroconvulsive therapy in 2004, earlier told The Independent that the treatment had “totally ruined[her]life” despite claiming that the psychiatrist told her she would suffer no long-term effects from it.
Dr Cunliffe, a former pediatrician, said: “Eventually, I couldn’t recognize my relatives or friends. I couldn’t count money. I didn’t know the multiplication table by two anymore. I couldn’t move anywhere. I couldn’t remember events from one moment to the next. “.
Leading Liberal Democrat MP Leila Moran said her party supported calls by Mind, the leading mental health charity, for a review of the way ECT is given while warning that “patient experience and care” must be at the center of any treatment.
Meanwhile, Nadia Whittum, the Labor MP for Nottingham East, supported the practice being suspended pending an “urgent investigation”, and said: “It is sometimes used on women in vulnerable positions without their consent as a matter of particular concern”.
Psychiatrists are legally required to obtain a person’s consent before treating them with electric shock, but if a patient has been forcibly admitted to a hospital by law and refuses to undergo this treatment, the psychiatrist can decide that this person is not competent to make this decision on his own.
Greens co-leader Carla Denyer warned that the treatment was “clearly being used in a way that exceeds specific recommendations made by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)”, while also calling for an urgent review of the issue, including examining why “talking and other treatments are not being provided”. Treatments that doctors can prescribe.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said evidence-based treatment is generally used for patients with severe depression either when their condition is life threatening or when their depression does not respond to other approaches.
A college spokesperson said: “As with many medical treatments, treatment can have side effects that vary in severity from one person to another, and should be weighed against the benefits and discussed extensively with the patient, but most people who undergo ECT see an improvement in symptoms.” “.
He also said that ECT could improve “people who are very ill” enough to “seek other types of treatment”, adding that it could help them “stay well for longer”.
“Banning or suspending ECT means preventing patients with life-threatening conditions from receiving effective treatment,” the spokesman added.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said treatment was “closely monitored” under the Mental Health Act 1983, adding that they expected health care staff and services to follow the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s regularly reviewed guidance.
“Through the draft mental health bill, we are trying to strengthen this protection by obligating the clinician to obtain the approval of a designated second physician before providing treatment,” the representative of the ministry added.