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ECT audit reveals appalling state of affairs

23 March 2005

ECT audit reveals appalling state of affairs

The first audit on electric shock treatment shows a shocking state of affairs, Green MP Sue Kedgley said.

“The audit reveals there are huge variations in the number of electric shock treatments that are being administered around New Zealand, that 22 percent are being given without consent, and that treatments are being given without any respect for patient privacy. Only a few places kept detailed ECT statistical data and the guidelines being used varied widely.”

Ms Kedgley said she was particularly shocked to discover in the ECT draft annual statistics for 2003/4 that Waitemata DHB administers on average an extraordinary 18 electric shock treatments per person whereas other DHBs administer only five shocks per person.

“It is astonishing that a DHB would be administering as many as 18 electric shock treatments when international guidelines say there should be only six to 10, and the national average in New Zealand is 10.4 treatments.

“Why on earth is it acceptable for one DHB to administer 18 electric shocks per person, especially when the treatment is so controversial and more frequent treatments can result in greater short-term memory loss?

“Equally extraordinary is the fact that, at Waitemata, 40 percent of treatments are given without the consent of a person, and in Counties Manukau it’s 58 percent. Overall 22 percent of treatments were not consented to. Why on earth are so many electric shock treatments being given without consent?” Ms Kedgley said.

The figures for 2003/4 show that 414 New Zealanders received ECT and that there are huge regional variations. Otago has an ECT rate of 22 per 100,000, three times the national average and twenty times higher than Auckland. The Bay of Plenty has a rate of 17 per 100,000.

Ms Kedgley said the data showed that seven sites had no local ECT committees, that at 10 sites a psychiatrist had not attended recognised ECT training programmes. The review also found that persons making a decision about whether to administer ECT without consent did not necessarily have any particular expertise in electric shock treatment.

“This is appalling.”

The audit found that most facilities do not even ensure basic privacy for a patient. In 60 percent of sites ECT was administered in a theatre recovery area while it was being used for other purposes.


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