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Thousands of women given ‘dangerous’ electric shocks as mental health treatment in England

Thousands of women in England with mental health problems are being given electric shock treatment despite concerns the therapy can cause irreparable brain damage.

NHS data seen by The Independent reveals the scale of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) prescribed disproportionately to women, who make up two-thirds of patients receiving the treatment.

Health professionals have warned the therapy can cause brain damage so severe recipients are unable to recognise family and friends or do basic maths.

While some patients say the therapy profoundly helped them, leading mental charities have branded it “damaging” and “outdated” and called for its use to be halted pending an urgent review or banned entirely.

Statistics obtained through Freedom of Information requests by Dr John Read, a professor at the University of East London and leading expert on ECT, showed 67% of 1,964 patients who received the treatment in 2019 were female.

ECT was given to women twice as often as men across 20 NHS trusts in the UK, his research found. The trusts also said some 36% of their patients in 2019 underwent ECT without providing consent.

A spokesperson added patients should be fully informed of the risks associated with ECT and the decision to deploy the treatment “should be made jointly with the person with depression as far as possible”.

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Source: The Independent, 19 June 2022


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