An exclusive BBC investigation of one of the ‘longest-running medical scandals in British history,’ regarding the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
Breakfast on BBC Hereford & Worcester – Patients from Herefordshire and Worcestershire who were given ECT say it has left them damaged for life
Former pediatrician and electroshock survivor, Susan Cunliffe, reports finding major failings in the use of ECT in England.
Both Cunliffe and fellow survivor, Andy Luff, share what their life after ECT has been like, both listing numerous examples of how ECT harmed them:
- Slurred speech
- Balance problems
- Difficulty recognizing friends and family
- Inability read or do basic maths
- The severity of her disability has left her unemployable
- Emotional blunting
- Bouts of speech loss and ability to walk
- Bedridden for years as a result
More troubling, both were never given appropriate cognitive monitoring before or after ECT.
Sue was unable to continue her medical career. She’s hasn’t worked since having ECT 16 years ago.
Andy had several failed suicide attempts after being so severely disabled by electroshock. After one of his suicide attempts, he was sectioned and threatened with more ECT by psychiatrists.
WHO REGULATES ECT IN ENGLAND?
So far the BBC has been unable to find out who is responsible for monitoring ECT administration.
Clinical psychologist Lucy Johnston explains:
Everywhere we go were told ECT is tightly regulated but when we ask who is tightly regulating it, we don’t get any clear answers.
We cannot continue to have a situation where we do not have clearly, properly regulated, and monitored practice.
Some people think there is a place for ECT but whatever your view I really hope we can all agree we need to have it safely administered according to agreed standards.
There needs to be recognition for those who may have been harmed by it.
There needs to be rehabilitation for them if necessary.
We need to be doing this properly if we’re going to do it.Lucy Jhonston
Poorly Implemented UK ECT Accreditation Service, ECTAS
One might turn to ECTAS (a UK ECT accreditation service) for answers, however, ECTAS is not a regulatory agency. Instead, they provide accreditation for clinics that participate in their program for a fee.
Clinics earn accreditation for various care standards met outlined by ECTAS.
Examples of ECTAS criteria and scoring:
There seem to be no repercussions for failing accreditations.
Providing refreshments has more scoring weight than referring a patient with memory problems being referred for neuropsychological evaluation.
- ECTAS ECT Minimum Dataset 2016-17
Activity Data Report – England, Wales, Northern
Ireland & Republic of Ireland
Follow-up on this story:
Toni McDonald – ‘I didn’t consent to being locked up or the medication’ – BBC Sounds
- UK brain injury resources – Headway
- UK ECT class action lawsuit
Recent independent UK ECT audits
ECT Leaflet Audits
- How Accurate are ECT Patient Information Leaflets Provided by Mental Health Services in England and the Royal College of Psychiatrists? An Independent Audit
- Patients are Being Misinformed About Electroconvulsive Therapy
Additional Related Content
- 57th Maudsley Debate – John Read, Susan Cunliffe
- ECT Dangers on Either Side of the Pond
- Dr. Susan Cunliffe: Escaping Psychiatry and ECT – A Physician’s Experience
- Mad in America ECT Archives
- Mad in UK ECT Archives
- 4 patient safety activists discuss their efforts for an independent review of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in the UK.
- Living With ECT (electroconvulsive Therapy) Brain Injury; Failed by ECTAS, RCPSYCH, NICE, and CQC