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ECT depression therapy should be suspended, study suggests

The use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat depression should be immediately suspended, a study says. ECT involves passing electric currents through a patient's brain to cause seizures or fits.

Dr John Read, of the University of East London said there was "no place" for ECT in evidence-based medicine due to risks of brain damage, but the Royal College of Psychiatrists said ECT offers "life-saving treatment" and should continue in severe cases.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) currently recommends the use of ECT for some cases of moderate or severe depression as well as catatonia and mania. However, peer-reviewed research published in the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry concludes "the high risk of permanent memory loss and the small mortality risk means that its use should be immediately suspended".

In response to the study, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said ECT should not be suspended for "some forms of severe mental illness".

Dr Rupert McShane, chair of the college's Committee on ECT and Related Treatments, said there was evidence showing "most people who receive ECT see an improvement in their condition".

"For many, it can be a life-saving treatment," he said.

"As with all treatments for serious medical conditions - from cancer to heart disease - there can be side-effects of differing severity, including memory loss."

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Source: BBC News, 3 June 2020


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