Will I have to give my consent?
Can I refuse to have ECT?
At some stage before the treatment you will be asked by your doctor to sign a
consent form for ECT. If you sign the form you are agreeing to have up to a
certain number of treatments (usually six). Before you sign the form the
doctor should explain what the treatment involves and why you are having it.
The doctor should be available to answer any questions you may have.
You can refuse to have ECT and you may withdraw your consent at any time,
even before the first treatment has been given. The consent form is not a
legal document and does not commit you to have the treatment. It is a record
that an explanation has been given to you and that you understand, to your
satisfaction, what is going to happen to you. Withdrawal of your consent to
ECT will not in any way alter your right to continued treatment with the best
alternative methods available.
PATIENT FACT SHEET
Very occasionally there are patients who are seriously ill. They may be
suicidal, convinced that they are too wicked to be treated or eating and ABOUT
drinking too little to stay alive for much longer. ECT may be given to patients
without their consent under a Section 3 of the Mental Health Act. Even so, an
independent psychiatrist, sent by the Mental Health Act Commission, must
agree that the treatment is necessary.
ELECTRO CONVULSIVE THERAPY
Are there any risks in not having ECT as (ECT)
If you choose not to accept your doctor's recommendation to have ECT, you
may experience a longer and more severe period of illness and disability than
might otherwise have been the case.
We hope the above has been helpful. If you have any further questions The information in this leaflet is based on
about ECT, please consult with your doctor. information provided by the Royal College of
Psychiatrists and in consultation with Service Users
For further copies or copies in other formats or languages contact:
Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Communications Team,
Wonford House Hospital, Dryden Road, Exeter, EX2 5AF. Tel: 01392 208700
Introduction What will actually happen when I have ECT?
This leaflet will try to answer some of the questions you may have about For the treatment you should wear loose clothes. You will be asked to
Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT). You may want to know; What is ECT? remove any jewellery, hair slides or false teeth, if you have them. The
Why is it used? What is it like to have ECT and what are the risks and treatment takes place in the ECT Centre and only takes a few minutes. Other
benefits? patients will not be able to see you having it. The anaesthetist will ask you to
hold our your hand so you can be given an anaesthetic injection. It will make
Why has ECT been recommended for me? you go to sleep and cause your muscles to relax completely. You will be
given some oxygen to breathe as you go off to sleep.
ECT is given for many reasons. Some of the more common reasons are
listed below. If you are not sure why you are being given ECT, do not be Once you are fast asleep, the small electric current is passed across your
afraid to ask your doctor or key worker. head, which causes the mild fit in your brain. There is little movement of your
body because of the relaxant infection that the anaesthetist gives. When you
ECT is most commonly used to treat severe depression wake up you will be in the recovery area. Once you are wide-awake you will
ECT may be helpful if you did not get better with antidepressant drugs. be offered a cup of tea.
ECT may help if you can't take antidepressant drugs because of the wide
effects. What are the side effects of ECT?
ECT may help if you have responded well to ECT in the past.
It is likely that your memory of recent events may be upset. Dates, names of
ECT may help if you feel so overwhelmed by your depression that it is friends, public events, addresses and telephone numbers may be temporarily
difficult to function at all. forgotten. In most cases this memory loss goes away within a few days or
weeks, although sometimes patients continue to experience memory
How does ECT work? problems for longer periods.
During ECT a small amount of electric current is sent to the brain. This
produces a seizure, which affects the brain, including the centres, which
Are there any serious risks from the treatment?
control thinking, mood, appetite and sleep. Repeated treatments alter ECT is amongst the safest medical treatments given under general
chemical messages in the brain and bring them back to normal. Hopefully anaesthesia. Very rarely, deaths do occur and these are usually because of
you then begin to recover from your illness. heart problems. If you do have heart disease, it may still be possible for you
to have ECT safely with special precautions, such as heart monitoring. Your
What is a course of ECT? doctor will ask another specialist to advise if there are grounds for concern.
ECT is usually given twice a week. It is not possible to say exactly how many
treatments you may need. Some people get better with as few as two or
What other treatments could I have?
three treatment sessions. Others may need as many as twelve and very There are other treatments that may help your particular condition, for
occasionally more. example, antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy. It is possible that some of
them may work as well as ECT. The advantages and disadvantages of other
treatments should be discussed with you by your doctor.