Edwin Martin on ECT


NO Rights for the Patient

by Edwin Martin

My concern about ECT is not to deny the recipient the treatment where there is mutual consent with the psychiatrist, but to allow the patient (especially first time admissions), the legal right to refuse ECT and not have it forced upon the person. Unfortunately, some psychiatrists and the Mental Health Act 1983, totally ignore the right of the patient to say NO to ECT.

An example of this bad practise happened during 1997, by a psychiatrist on a 66 year old lady patient in the Birmingham area. This lady voluntarily went into hospital for drug treatment and later the psychiatrist wanted her to consent to ECT. When the lady refused ECT, the psychiatrist simply put a SECTION on her and using the rules of the Mental Health Act, proceeded to force treatment on her. After suffering 8 ECTs this lady patient was then discharged.

Being abused by the psychiatrist who ignored her wish not to have ECT she reported her complaint to a member of the local COMMUNITY HEALTH COUNCIL (CHC), a statutory body established in 1974, that helps in complaints to do with medical treatment in the National Health Service. However, the lady was reluctant to pursue her valid complaint as she was still dependent on attending a day centre. I feel much sympathy with this lady, because way back in 1974, I too was forced to undergo 6 ECTs even though I refused to consent to the treatment.


How many more ECTs are given around the UK without the patient’s consent?

What about the needless cost to the NHS, especially as an ANAESTHETIST is required when giving ECT?

Does the Secretary of State for Health care about the abusive use of ECT, and will the Minister be willing to change the Mental Health Act, for ECT to be put on a par with LOBOTOMY, where the patient has to consent with a Mental Health Act Commissioner present with him or her and the psychiatrist, to ensure that the patient is fully informed about every step in the operation?


I am sure that there are many patients who find ECT beneficial. However, I am also sure that there are many patients who are too frightened to complain when their wish to decline ECT is ignored and they are forced at the hands of the professional to endure treatment.