This post is a collection of excerpts from the website ectatroyalcornhill.co.uk, where the founder, Jon*, shares how cancer treatment to heavy psychiatric drugging and forced electroconvulsive therapy (ECT.)
Electroconvulsive Therapy and Treatment with Psychiatric Drugs at the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen
Electroconvulsive Therapy without consent or prior warning
Imagine that you had no previous history of mental illness, had a major depressive episode after being diagnosed with advanced cancer, had been a hospital inpatient for around three weeks, and had been moved to a ward where the nursing staff was, at last, treating you with compassion.
Your condition was starting to improve, and you were socialising and eating meals with the other patients. One morning you are told not to go to the dining room for breakfast because you were going to be taken for electroconvulsive therapy.
This came like a bolt from the blue because no-one had told you that this would be happening. No doctor had consulted you or told you about it, there was no one to talk to and no way of avoiding the trauma of being taken to the ECT suite against your will, being anaesthetised, and having an electric current passed through your brain to induce a seizure.
This happened four times until I was able to stop it. This happened to me at the Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen in December 2021 and January 2022. I still get angry and upset when I remember the utter helplessness of being wheeled by a nurse along endless corridors to reach the ECT suite and looking down while they stuck a needle into my hand for the anaesthetic.
A few months later, when you feel mentally strong enough to re-visit what happened, you request your medical records. You find that the second opinion doctor who signed the form authorising the treatment had never met you, the consent forms had not been completed properly, and your objection to the treatment was recorded in notes, but three of the four ECT sessions had happened after the Temporary Detention Certificate had expired, and so had no legal basis, and that the doctors administering the ECT appeared to be misinformed about your status, recording wrongly that the Temporary Detention Certificate had been extended and then a Compulsory Treatment Order granted.
Sertraline, Olanzapine, and Mirtazapine without informed consent
Imagine that you have been a hospital inpatient for over two months and are given pills to swallow morning and evening, but the doctor responsible for your care, Dr. Hannah Badial, hasn’t told you what they are, although you have heard that they are antidepressants and an antipsychotic.
Once you become a voluntary patient and have access to the internet, you ask a nurse. She tells you that they are Olanzapine, Mirtazapine, and Sertraline, so you look them up online and find that they have several possible side effects.
The day for your discharge arrives, and still no doctor has told you which drugs you have been given and are expected to continue to take, let alone told you about the possible side effects, how these might exacerbate those from Androgen Deprivation Therapy cancer treatment, or how and when to reduce the doses.
A few minutes before your taxi is due, you are given a paper bag of boxes of tablets from the pharmacy. You open it when you arrive home that evening. The boxes do indeed contain Olanzapine, Mirtazapine, and Sertraline.
The only instructions that you have been given about taking them are on the labels on the boxes. You check the doses online and find that of Sertraline is particularly high (four times the normal dose) and that using these drugs in combination increases the risk of side effects. You decide that you are not going to take any drugs that have been so casually prescribed without your informed consent.
Thankfully any withdrawal effects are not noticeable and amid the relief of getting away from hospital and resuming your life, you start to feel less like a zombie and much better than you did when you were drugged. This happened to me at the Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen in January 2022.
How I Ended Up in the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen
My diagnosis and the subsequent deterioration in my mental health are explained under Prostate Cancer Diagnosis.
My cousin and his wife came to my rescue and escorted me back to my home in Orkney, which is another unfinished building project with inadequate heating.
The community psychiatric nurse came to see me and did her best by arranging some practical help, but my mental condition did not improve and was made worse by starting treatment for prostate cancer.
The results of my tests were transferred from England, and I had a phone call out of the blue from a consultant in Elgin. He was very direct and told me that I’d probably got another five years to live and would have injections every three months at the local GP surgery, but first I must take a course of pills to suppress the testosterone surge that would happen with the first injection. This treatment is itself mood-altering and can cause depression.
I remained very concerned about money as my savings had gone, and I had no source of income.
My cousin and his wife and son came to my rescue again and took me to their house in Shetland to look after me despite having busy crofting lives. This was the start of the Shetland winter, and I was in the room within the roof that I usually stayed in, which now seemed over-warm.
They took me to see their GP, but she seemed nonplussed and didn’t offer any help. Days later I became concerned that I was having some kind of medical episode as my vision was disturbed.
Much later, I learned that this is a possible side effect of the Triptorelin injection that I had been given to treat my prostate cancer and that it can also trigger severe depression, but no one had told me about this.
I asked to be taken to the hospital to be checked out, so my cousin contacted the GP, who phoned the hospital to let them know that I would be coming.
The Gilbert Bain Hospital, Lerwick
My memory of my time in the Gilbert Bain Hospital is incomplete because I was heavily drugged. I was admitted on Saturday evening, 27th November 2021, and stayed there until the following Tuesday morning.
I had never been in hospital before and, until the cancer injection, hadn’t taken any type of medication for over 30 years. When I arrived there, I remember being asked to do what I now know was the Mini-Mental State Examination.
It is a simple test, but I struggled with it. I remember being fitted with a cannula that caught on the bed sheet and dug into my arm.
I was in bed on my own in a featureless room, in a drugged-up state, with no stimulation other than my own thoughts after a lifetime of being constantly occupied throughout the day. All that I knew about my cancer prognosis and treatment came from a brief phone call when I was told that it was terminal and that I might have five more years to live. It was the worst possible therapeutic environment, and it is no wonder that my condition deteriorated.
I remember that the staff wasn’t particularly pleasant. I remember someone reading out some official language that must have been the temporary detention order. I remember a nurse with a heavily made-up face chatting to another nurse about having a shopping trip to Aberdeen.
I remember a sadistic nurse who pushed some tablets into my mouth while laughing and wishing me a pleasant trip. They heavily sedated me out to send me to Aberdeen by air ambulance.
Now that I have seen my notes, I know that they gave me Sertraline, an antidepressant, and upped the dose to 150mg, also 12.5mg Olanzapine, an antipsychotic, plus 2mg Diazepam, plus 3mg Lorenzepam for the journey to Aberdeen.
The discharge letter noted that my condition seemed to have deteriorated!
My Time in the Royal Cornhill Hospital, Aberdeen
Isolated in a side room in Fyvie Ward
On 30th November 2021, I came to a side room of what I later found out was Fyvie ward, which was for young people. They put me there because there was nowhere in a more appropriate ward. I was completely disoriented because I didn’t know where I was or how I got there, but I had a feeling that I didn’t belong there (which was not completely irrational).
I was hallucinating and fantasised about being a stowaway on a ship. Far from helping me, entering hospital had made me a lot worse. I was diagnosed as having psychotic depression and was beginning further drug treatment after the Olanzapine and Sertraline I had been given in the Gilbert Bain, the Lorenzepam they had used to knock me out for the plane flight, and shortly after being given an injection to stop my body producing testosterone.
It is difficult to distinguish between the underlying depression, the side effects of the injection, the result of my body getting used to the powerful psychiatric drugs, and the despair of suddenly being confined against my will in an alien environment far from home and any friends without the constant stimulations that I was used to.
After reading about them it seems to me that suddenly being given the powerful drugs was a major cause of the problems. I was unshaven, hadn’t had a haircut or a shower for a long time, and only had the work clothes that I had on when I was admitted in Shetland, plus a few unsuitable things that my cousin had dropped off in Lerwick. I was extremely constipated, and laxatives didn’t seem to be having any effect.
Instead of giving me suppositories or an enema, as happened later, my medical notes suggest that the consultant psychiatrist interpreted my complaints about being constipated as a wish to commit unconscious suicide by filling up with faeces and dying as a result. I was already constipated in Shetland, but my notes from the Gilbert Bain Hospital suggest that I was eating normally. If my appetite was not good when I was in Fyvie, it is not surprising.
I have since read that constipation is also a side effect of all three of the drugs that I was being given!
At an early stage, the nurses came to believe that I was suicidal. I was never going to do anything to kill myself – I had thought that my life was over because I had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Nevertheless, they came into the room and took the laces out of my boots, and took my belt and a phone charger cord. They then sat on chairs at the doorway in relays, watching me.
They seemed to be pissed off about having to do this. I can’t remember how long this went on for, but they eventually stopped doing it. This certainly didn’t improve my mental state.
Recovery in Drum Ward
The transfer to Drum Ward on 7th December was a major turning point. This was a ward for older people, and I was in a room with three other men who I could talk to. In Fyvie ward, the nursing staff had not gone out of their way to reassure me or treat me as a human being rather than as a suicide risk who was being looked after temporarily.
In Drum ward, the staff were more caring, and the rituals of them serving meals three times a day and teas, coffees, and snacks also three times a day meant that there was social interaction with them and with fellow patients, both men and women, throughout the day. The ward GP listened to my concerns about constipation, and after two sessions with an enema and suppositories, my bowels were moving properly again.
I was still unkempt, partly because my cousin was too far away to visit and bring me fresh clothes, but my condition was slowly improving. Visits by Doctor Hannah Badial seemed to follow no particular timetable that would have allowed me to prepare questions, but I do remember her telling me that she was pleased with my progress and that, at one stage, they were so worried about me that they had been considering ECT. The thought of this horrified me, but I felt reassured that this was not going to happen.
The Bombshell – being taken to the electroconvulsive therapy suite against my will for compulsory treatment with no prior warning
I remember being taken in a wheelchair by taxi to the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for an X-Ray. No one told me why this was being done. I thought that perhaps it was because of Covid 19, or because of my cancer. I have since read that this is a preliminary to administering ECT.
Now that I have seen my medical notes, it seems that they had been planning to give me ECT since shortly after my admission but had delayed it mainly for administrative reasons.
The first time that I realised what was going to be done to me was when I was told by a nurse on Christmas Eve morning not to go through to the dining room with the other patients because I would be getting a general anaesthetic. I was helpless.
I remember the feeling rising from my stomach as I realised what was going to happen. Dr. Hannah Badial had not told me that I would be getting electroconvulsive therapy, let alone asked for my consent or told me what was involved and what the side effects could be, as she was obliged to do.
I was taken to the ECT suite in a wheelchair by a nurse, and I vividly remember the long journey through the hospital corridors and the feeling of the anaesthetic being injected into the back of my right hand. I still get angry and upset when I recall what happened, even though it is now several months ago.
How could the bastards do that to me? How could they not even tell me what they were going to do to me? How could they assault me like that when I was already getting better?
This happened four times before I was able to stop them, on the 24th, 28th, and 31st of December 2021 and the 4th of January 2022. I received a letter dated 11th January 2022 from the Mental Health Act Administrator telling me that I was made an informal patient on 26th December 2021.
They didn’t tell me this before they administered three of the ECT treatments against my will, and they hadn’t applied for an extension to the Temporary Detention Order, so they had no legal basis for inflicting compulsory ECT on me.
It makes me even more angry now that I know this. I also now know that the second opinion doctor who completed Form T3A authorising ECT treatment, Dr. David Rooke, never met me or examined me and lied when he stated that ‘I have consulted with the patient.’
He completed the form after a Microsoft Teams remote meeting with Dr. Hannah Badial and an unnamed nurse on 21st December 2021, so it was not a valid second opinion.
The temporary detention order that had been granted in the Gilbert Bain Hospital under the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 2003 expired at midnight on 26th December 2021. An extension certificate was not put in place to extend the detention by five working days until a Tribunal was held on the 6th of January 2022.
Dr Jane Murdoch certified on 21st December that ‘Due to the severity of his illness he would not be able to arrange representation on his behalf.’ She also stated that ‘He is reluctant to eat and drink expressing a wish to commit unconscious suicide as he states his bowels are blocked and he will fill with faeces and die as a result.’
This is a complete load of bollocks. Three days after Dr. Murdoch certified that I was reluctant to eat and drink, I was enjoying Christmas lunch and dinner with the other patients.
Dr. Rauinder Badial, the husband of Dr. Hannah Badial, also certified on 22nd December that ‘Due to delusional beliefs – not able to instruct a solicitor.’
Seven days later, I instructed a solicitor from Ormistons Mental Health Law Practice to represent me at the Tribunal and received a copy of the Compulsory Treatment Order Pack that had been submitted to the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland.
The tribunal was held remotely, with my solicitor speaking on my behalf. The Mental Health Officer making the application admitted that it was just over three weeks since she had visited me in the hospital and she did not know about my current condition, and at the time of her visit, it was not clear that a Compulsory Treatment Order would be required.
Dr. Jane Murdoch was on annual leave and did not attend the tribunal or provide a substitute, so her views on my condition could not be challenged. Luckily, in her absence, the tribunal accepted evidence from a staff nurse who confirmed that I had made a huge improvement, that I was engaging well with staff, and was able to give my views about treatment eloquently.
He was my saviour and I am appalled to think what would have happened if the Tribunal had believed the psychiatrists, if Dr. Murdoch had attended the Tribunal, and my confinement within the ward and involuntary treatment with ECT had continued.
The Tribunal ruled that the conditions set out in Section 64(5) of the 2003 Act had not been met and refused the application for a Compulsory Treatment Order. I agreed to stay in the hospital as a voluntary patient.
Becoming a voluntary patient transformed my life at Cornhill. I could see that there was hope of resuming a normal life rather than being in continued confinement in an alien environment far from home in a drugged haze and being given distressing treatment against my strongly expressed wishes.
I refused any further ECT, got my wallet and bank card back, and was able to leave the ward between meal times and walk into Aberdeen. Going for long walks was probably the most important factor in my recovery, together with gaining some control over my life and being able to deal with some of the triggers of depression in a more rational way. Money from an expensive motorbike that I had sold with my cousin’s help before going to Shetland was in my account, and payment of the state pension had started, so the balance was well into double figures.
I walked to the Berryden Road shopping centre and bought new clothes, I had a haircut, and I bought a radio and writing materials. I walked to Union Square and bought a MacBook and iPhone from the Apple Store.
This meant that I had access to the internet from my bed in the ward, could start to sort out my debts, contact friends, have some of the mental stimulus that I had been missing, and order books online from Blackwell’s bookshop that were delivered to the hospital.
I decided to cut my losses on a property that I had been renovating and instructed an estate agent to put it on the market so I would never have to worry about debts again. I attended an appointment at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and met my oncologist.
For the first time, someone explained to me how far the cancer had spread, the prognosis, and the proposed treatments. I could see that although I would never be cured and that cancer would catch up with me eventually, there was the hope of living a relatively normal life in the meantime. I went out almost every day, sometimes twice.
I went on a date with a fellow patient. We took a taxi to Old Aberdeen, explored the area, had coffee and cake in a cafe and tea at the house of a friend of hers before returning to the hospital. I visited the art gallery and the Aberdeen archives and sampled the coffee and cake in numerous cafes.
I believe that as well as the regular exercise of walking, this freedom to control my life again and to deal with the issues that had triggered the depression was the reason for my recovery. I was relieved of the pressures of working and fending for myself, had people around me, had a routine, had the stimulus of exploring the city, and was being fed and looked after by nursing staff who were caring.
I hadn’t been told any details by Dr. Hannah Badial about the medication that I was being given morning and evening, so I asked a nurse and, on 16th January, wrote down what she told me – Sertraline, Olanzapine, and Mirtazapine as well as (less regularly) Diazepam.
As I now had a MacBook, I could look them up and confirm that these were two different antidepressants, an antipsychotic and a benzodiazepine. Each has a long list of recognised side effects, some very serious, and each takes some time to work and may cause mental disturbance before they do.
I also discovered that some people have great difficulty withdrawing from them. There also seems to be controversy about whether antidepressants are more effective than placebo, except in a minority of cases. Once I was admitted to hospital, my mental condition deteriorated considerably, particularly after being transferred unconscious from Lerwick to Aberdeen. I now wonder now how much of that was due to my body being unaccustomed to the powerful mixture of drugs that I was being given while held in isolation against my wishes and how much was due to the illness.
One day Dr. Hannah Badial did come to see me in the dormitory and asked if we could have a word in a side room and did I mind if there were some medical students present. It was an informal, friendly chat rather than a consultation between doctor and patient, and I now know that this happened on 26th January.
She asked me to tell my story. I suspect that she was hoping to show me off to the students as an example of successful treatment, as by then, I was presentable and more articulate than any of the other patients on the ward. What she perhaps wasn’t expecting was for me to say thank God the Tribunal didn’t accept the statements from the psychiatrists who had only seen me for a few minutes each, believed the nurse, and allowed me to become a voluntary patient.
I also said to the students that no one had told me that I was getting ECT until a nurse told me on the morning of the first treatment, and thank God again that I was able to stop it when I became voluntary. Dr. Badial told me semi-apologetically that she was away when the ECT started. I now know that she was fully aware of what was to be done to me because she arranged for it to happen, but she deliberately failed to warn me.
She asked me about a discharge date, and I suggested after about another week, as I had just started on some additional Androgen Deprivation Therapy tablets and a steroid for prostate cancer and would like to wait to see if they had any adverse effects. I never saw her or any other doctor again. I expected to have another consultation with her or another doctor before I was discharged to discuss any treatment post-discharge.
No one told me about the tablets that I was taking, how to take them after I was discharged, their possible side effects (particularly when used in combination), and how and when to reduce the dose. I certainly didn’t give informed consent to continuing to take them after I became a voluntary patient, as I should have been asked to do.
On the day that I was discharged, I was waiting to have some of my possessions that were in store returned and to be given a supply of tablets to take with me. A few minutes before a taxi that was to take me to the Infirmary to catch a minibus to the airport was due, I was handed a sealed paper bag from the pharmacy. I only opened it after I arrived home in Orkney that evening and read the labels on the boxes with the names of the drugs, the doses, and when to take them.
They were the same names that the nurse had given me – Olanzapine, Mirtazapine and Sertraline, with the dose of Sertraline being the maximum 200 grammes, which is four times the standard dose.
I decided that I wasn’t going to take any of the drugs as no doctor had told me what they were and why I was to take them. Another ‘thank God’ moment as I dread to think what would have happened if I had followed the instructions on the labels and embarked on an extended course of powerful psychiatric drugs at the same time as having androgen deprivation therapy for cancer. I would probably still be living with the life-changing consequences now.
I was so glad to be free that I wasn’t aware of any effects of going cold turkey and spent a few weeks traveling, to Shetland, to England, and to Bulgaria. In fact, I felt more alive and alert as the drugged state lifted.
I have since read online about the numerous and sometimes very serious side effects of the same drugs that I was given, particularly when given in combination, the controversy about whether anti-depressants are more effective than placebo in the majority of cases, the fact that the drugs can cause as well as cure distressing symptoms, and the difficult and lengthy tapering regimes that some patients need to get off them.
So why did they give them to me so carelessly when I didn’t need them and probably hadn’t needed them for some time before I left the hospital if I had ever needed such aggressive treatment?
I read of patients complaining that their doctors did not warn them about side effects and withdrawal problems when they were prescribed the same drugs that I was given, and I am incredulous that I could be treated, latterly as a voluntary patient, and then discharged from a psychiatric hospital without even being told by a doctor which drugs I was expected to continue to take and how to take them, let alone told about any adverse effects.
Perhaps the clue is in the fact that the doctors specialised in the psychiatry of old age and expected their patients to be passive and incapable of recovering and challenging them.
I had two follow-up appointments with a locum psychiatrist in Orkney, done remotely because I was away from the island. The first was on 3rd March 2022, and the second on 7th April.
Both times there wasn’t much to discuss, except to tell her that I was ok. There was no medication to adjust because I wasn’t taking any, and no depression to treat because I wasn’t depressed.
At the end of the second meeting, she told me that she would discharge me from the mental health system.
This confirms to me that I had what I have seen described as Situational Depression, Incident Depression or Adjustment Disorder that was initially made much worse by lack of information and treatment, then over-aggressive treatment and isolation, before being completely resolved.
Who knows what state I would have been in now if I had taken the tablets? Winning the Tribunal despite the psychiatrists, stopping them from continuing to violently assault me by causing me to have grande mal seizures by passing electric currents through my brain, and ignoring the instructions to take two antidepressants and an antipsychotic after I was discharged saved me.
From what? Being a brain-damaged victim of ECT? An emotionally numbed mental health patient struggling with withdrawal from psychiatric drugs? Suffering the serious and life-threatening side effects possible when using psychiatric drugs in combination at the same time as taking the cancer drugs? I don’t know.
A Very Controversial Therapy
It was some time before I was able to recall my experience of ECT without getting upset and angry as I remembered the sheer helplessness and horror of realising what was going to be done to me. I tried to avoid thinking about it. The feeling still hasn’t gone away – my body tenses when I think about it now. I usually sleep well, but the memory is one of the things that keeps me awake at night,
The process of coming to terms with what had been done began in the summer of 2022 when I was driving with Woman’s Hour playing on the car radio. There was a discussion about the over-use of ECT, particularly on older women.
The psychiatrist defending the treatment said that it is only used as a last resort when all other treatments have failed (which was untrue in my case) and then only used with the full consent of patients after explaining to them the full risks and benefits (which was also untrue in my case). The doctor saying that the procedure should be banned was Dr John Read, and I followed up with a link to his research on the BBC website.
He has concluded that there is no evidence that ECT has any meaningful long-term benefits compared to placebo, that the little research that has been done is of a poor quality, and that there is a high risk of permanent memory loss and a small mortality risk.
So I started searching for more information about ECT online and found just how controversial it is, how it is disputed whether it works at all, and how the theories about how it might work are unproven.
Much later, after seeing my medical notes, I found out that the manufacturers of the MECTA Sigma machine used on me had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the USA to protect themselfs from claims for compensation for the harm that had allegedly been caused by their machines, after insurers withdrew liability cover.
And there was a group of former patients who tried to sue the NHS, claiming that they have suffered brain damage because of ECT!
The material is too extensive to summarise here, but I hope to add more information and links to this section when I have the time and feel able.
How the hell could they do that to me without even telling me what they were going to do? And plan to detain me against my wishes and to continue with such a controversial and violent treatment when I was already recovering from a mental state that had been made worse by my previous treatment at the Gilbert Bain and in the side room in Fyvie Ward?
Legal Authority for ‘Treatment’ Against My Wishes
The most shocking revelation in the documents that I received from the Mental Welfare Commission is the copy of Form T3A completed by the second opinion doctor, Dr. David Rooke of Stracathro Hospital, Brechin.
I have included more information about the form in the section on Law and Guidance. He held a Microsoft Teams meeting with Dr. Hannah Badial and an un-named staff nurse on 21st December 2021, and despite never having met me or examined me, certified that I was incapable of understanding the nature, purpose, and likely effects of the treatment, that treatment is authorized by virtue of the Act (when the authorisation was due to expire and did expire five days later), that he had consulted with the patient when he hadn’t, and that the patient resists or objects to treatment but that is necessary for alleviating serious suffering on the part of the patient. Is this professional misconduct?
Loss of Memory by Dr. David Rooke
I made a complaint about Dr. David Rooke to the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. He definitely did not consult me, as he was obliged to do, before authorising ECT. My memory of that period was not obliterated by the ECT, and the note that Dr Hannah Badial made of the Microsoft Teams meeting with him did not record my presence or any consultation with me.
Records of My ‘Treatment’
I now have access to my medical notes, which confirm that I did not consent to ECT, that procedures to notify me were not followed, and that three of the four treatments were done after I had become an informal patient, and so were done illegally.
Read the full story here.