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Need to put service users first in ECT debate

Need to put service users first in ECT debate

The Mental Health Commission welcomes the just-released ECT report, but says it doesn’t go far enough to protect the rights of mental health service users or acknowledge the high level of risk of ECT as a treatment.

Mental Health Commissioner Mary O’Hagan said that she is sceptical about the review’s interpretation of the level of risk posed by ECT.

“There are other interpretations of the international research which give ECT a poorer picture than those expressed in the report. People for whom ECT is a treatment option should be told about the full extent of the risks.”

These risks include serious and irreversible memory loss, with some people reporting loss of huge volumes of their memories including their entire childhood, and their ability to perform skills like music, art and writing.

Mary says that the past experience of ECT and preferences of service users must be a top consideration when ECT is being considered as a treatment option.

“We support further discussion on changes to the Act to include the competency test, so people who are mentally competent but being treated compulsorily under the Mental Health Act can refuse ECT.

“We also strongly support advance directives, where people can specify what treatments they do and don’t want to receive in the event that they become incompetent. These need to be widely promoted and should be respected and used by doctors.”

Mary says that the Commission view is that ECT should not be banned. It should remain as a treatment option as some service users have found it a life saver.

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