The ministers are faced with the demand to order an investigation into a "primitive" treatment for depression, in which electrical currents are conducted through the brain.
Electrospasm therapy (ECT) has been used to treat a range of psychiatric disorders, including mania, catatonia and schizophrenia, for almost a century.
However, critics say the evidence of its use is poor, while the potential side effects like memory loss, vision problems, and trauma can be debilitating.
The effects of ECT have been famously portrayed in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson – though doctors say the cruel fictional report has no relation to the reality of ECT.
Ministers are faced with the request to have an investigation into a "primitive" electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) for depression, which was famously portrayed in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson (picture).
More than 40 opponents of the treatment, including doctors and patients, have written to Health Minister Matt Hancock asking for a review of the procedure, which is still administered to thousands of NHS patients each year.
The move takes place just a few days after a government-mandated medical device review found thousands of women and children were injured because they overlooked problems with pelvic mesh implants, pregnancy testing, and epilepsy medication.
The ECT activists claim that their concerns have also been dismissed since most of those affected are older women.
Last night one of the organizers of the letter said Dr. Sue Cunliffe from Worcestershire: "People would not believe that something as primitive as ECT is still used in modern psychiatry." It should have been banned decades ago. "
Dr. Cunliffe claimed she was forced to drop out of her pediatric career because of brain damage caused by 21 ECT sessions a year – almost twice as many as recommended.
"I had no inability to recognize faces, my hands were shaking uncontrollably and I couldn't walk in a straight line," she said.
Her speech was blurry and she tried to read or even remember words. She said it also deeply affected her memory.
Another signatory, clinical psychologist Dr. Bristol's Lucy Johnstone said, "ECT recipients among us have severe psychological trauma and lifelong impairment of their cognitive functions."
At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, around 50,000 people received an ECT annually for countless mental health problems.
Dr. Worcestershire Sue Cunliffe claimed she was forced to drop out of her pediatrician career due to brain damage caused by 21 ECT sessions per year – almost twice as many as recommended (archive image)
That number has since dropped to about 2,000 a year, most with severe depression.
Last month, psychologists at Harvard Medical School in the U.S. and the University of East London (UEL) reviewed the ECT trials to find that it was ineffective in treating depression.
Sham treatments, in which patients thought they were going to have an ECT when no current was actually passed through their brains, were equally effective.
Dr. John Read of UEL, who also signed the letter to Mr. Hancock, said the evidence on which the use of ECT was based was "of the lowest quality I have seen in my 40-year career."
However, the Royal College of Psychiatrists continues to support its use, saying that it can be "life-saving" for patients with severe depression.
It cites data from the years 2016-17 that showed that 43 percent of the patients were "greatly improved" after the ECT and 30 percent were "very much improved". A little more than one percent was "minimally worse, much worse or very much worse".
Dr. Rupert McShane, chairman of the college's committee for ECT and related treatments, said: "Monitoring potential side effects is a routine part of the practice and allows clinicians to adjust treatment accordingly."
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