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Scientific Review showing ECT to be Ineffective

Scientific Review showing ECT to be Ineffective and Unsafe submitted to Food & Drug Administration on eve of its ECT Hearings.

For decades the FDA has allowed electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to be used without requiring any proof of safety or efficacy. On January 27 and 28 the FDA is finally holding hearings into the safety and effectiveness.

Professors John Read (University of Auckland - NZ) and Richard Bentall (University of Liverpool - UK) have just submitted their review of the research literature – published last month in the international scientific journal Epidemiologia e Psychiatria Sociale. ,

The review, of all relevant studies over 60 years, show only very minimal evidence for improvement during the treatment period and no evidence for improvement afterward. It also found no evidence that it prevents suicide.

Read and Bentall (both clinical psychologists with many years experience of working with severely distressed patients) also summarized “strong evidence” for “persistent and, for some, permanent brain dysfunction.” They concluded that “the cost-benefit analysis for ECT is so poor that its use cannot be scientifically justified.” They further stated, “The continued use of ECT therefore represents a failure to introduce the ideals of evidence-based medicine into psychiatry.”

Professor Read:

“The findings of this review suggest that campaigns by ECT recipients all over the world to ban ECT are supported by the lack of scientific evidence that it is safe or effective. Certainly the fears of ECT-induced memory loss, so often dismissed as ‘subjective memory loss’ by ECT proponents are, according to the research, well-founded in fact.”

“The dwindling number of psychiatrists who still use this procedure, which sends 150 volts through brain cells equipped to deal with tiny fractions of one volt are, no doubt, well-intentioned, but the research just does not support them.”

“If we took a rational, evidence-based approach to the controversy about ECT it would be abandoned, as have other treatments once thought to be effective, such as rotating chairs, surprise baths and lobotomies.”

Professor Bentall:

“The very short- term benefit gained by a small minority cannot justify the risks to which all ECT recipients are exposed. The use of ECT therefore represents a failure to introduce the ideals of evidence-based medicine into psychiatry. It seems there is resistance to the research data in the ECT community, and perhaps in psychiatry in general.”

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