'ECT' without consent

Madam, – On the subject of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without consent (Home News, December 7th), it is important we listen to people such as Mary Maddock who are speaking after having had ECT, and personally suffered its effects.

Professionals who advocate it don’t have to undergo it.  Instead, they note that after  the shock is administered to patients, there is sometimes a lightening of mood – euphoria (which is the natural reaction to shock), but very soon this subsides, and the patient returns to depression again, this time with an impaired brain.

It may be that ECT is a drastic remedy, but the cure may be worse than the disease. Trust and confidence are slow to repair, and the loss to memory, especially the time leading up to the treatment – makes the patient very vulnerable. The fact that vessels and connections are ruptured, and cannot be repaired,  as it is a closed head wound – all make this treatment undesirable. In some cases the result is more incapacity.

The loss of memory can be permanent and the nature of the treatment, which is invasive and akin to rape by machine, makes it difficult to justify.  There may indeed be desperate cases requiring desperate remedies, but this is as if you could fix a television or engine with a sledgehammer – you might just hit on the right bit!  Sometimes it works, but the usual result is further damage.

It is often sensitive individuals, prone to emotional illness, who are given this treatment, where there is no respect for mind, or bodily integrity. They live out their lives in fear, until people like Mary Maddock speak out. Thankfully, some have survived: like Austin Clarke, and Paul Durcan, but it a slow process.

This treatment has been described by Ted Hughes as “an atrocity” in a letter to me about Sylvia Plath and her experience of ECT (which is now in the British Library).

I should add that I am a survivor myself. – Yours, etc,


Rosemount Court,

Booterstown, Co Dublin.