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Is depression a greater risk than ECT?

MagazineDecember 1996 (Vol. 7 Issue 9)Is depression a greater risk than ECT?

Is depression a greater risk than ECT? This is the question which medicine should seek to resolve

Is depression a greater risk than ECT? This is the question which medicine should seek to resolve. Even if it is, there remains the question of whether earlier detection and possible preventative procedures would reduce the need for such a drastic measure as ECT. The combination of drugs and ECT has been poorly researched, and nobody knows for sure what damage we may be doing. Patient's views are seldom taken into account when discussing the efficacy of ECT yet clearly more than half find it distressing, damaging and/or of little value.

Proponents of ECT are hard pressed to produce any evidence that the effects of treatment last more than a month or two. This seems to be the heart of the matter. To subject patients to such a physiologically and emotionally devastating form of treatment for such paltry benefit seems to show flagrant disregard for the primary tenet of the Hippocratic Oath, "First do not harm". If ECT were a drug surely its widespread use would not be justified. Furthermore ECT, like so many of the most controversial medical treatments, highlights social issues which are difficult to resolve, such as our attitudes to the elderly, women and any other group which doesn't "fit" into society's frame of reference. There is an urgent need for well conducted, qualitative and quantitative research which takes into account all of these factors


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