Dear Prof Matthews: why are female patients in Carseview Centre Dundee being put under pressure to have ECT?

dais screenshot blog 20apr15

Another letter sent this morning by Email to Professor Keith Matthews, psychiatrist on the Advanced Interventions Service (DAIS) based at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and Head of Neuroscience at the University of Dundee.  Copied in to his psychiatrist colleagues at DAIS, the Cabinet Secretary for Health at Scottish Government and her fellow MSP in Dundee, the CEO of NHS Tayside, the Director of National Services Division at NHS and the Head of the Scottish Mental Health Research Network:

Strapline: why are female patients in Carseview Centre Dundee being put under pressure to have ECT?

“Dear Professor Matthews

I am wondering if you can answer this question?

I remember your article and quote in the Courier piece from October 2011: “Professor defends electroconvulsive therapy against Hollywood’s portrayal”:

where you say “ECT is one of the single most effective treatments in the whole of medicine.”  A shock to the brain or a knock on the head is more important than for example penicillin or insulin?

I am hearing, again, that female patients in the Carseview Centre, Dundee, are being put under pressure to have ECT.  I heard it first back in early 2013 when my middle son was a patient in Ward 1 at Carseview and an older female patient in the dining room, about my age, said to another patient that her psychiatrist wanted her to have ECT but she didn’t want it.  The other patient, a young man, former Game student at Abertay, told her to refuse it.  That’s what he was doing.  However the woman said that her doctor wouldn’t discharge her until she agreed to the ECT.  Soon after this the woman capitulated, got the shock treatment and got discharged.  She had entered the ward with a black eye and left it with a knock on the head.  Same difference I suppose.

Please excuse my flippancy.  I am really very angry and upset that women should be pressurised to accept electroconvulsive therapy when they don’t want to have it.  It happened to my mother many times, in Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Forced ECT.  Against her will.  My mother was not suicidal or depressed.  Rather she experienced altered mind states, nervous breakdowns as they were then called, now “psychoses”.  My mother was a gentle woman who was sensitive and caring.  She didn’t deserve to be abused in psychiatric settings because of feeling emotional pain at the circumstances of life.

I am hearing that it is women who have diagnoses of OCD and/or depression who are being put under pressure to have ECT in the Carseview Centre, Dundee, by both nurses and doctors.  I am thinking that there has to be a link with the work that you do at the University of Dundee and the Advanced Interventions Service.  It cannot just be coincidence when there are so many factors in common.

On 16 May 2015 there is to be an international Day of Protest against Electroshock:

And here is a recent article, for interest, by Dr Bonnie Burstow on Mad in America: Protesting ECT: A Moral/Existential Calling:

mia bonnie burstow ect mar15 Excerpts:

“That noted, ECT has been proven conclusively to cause extensive brain damage (see Zarubenko et al., 2005) and extensive and enduring cognitive impairment — memory loss in particular (see Breggin 1991 and Sackeim et al., 2007). Moreover, however the so-called therapeutic effect may be theorized, it has been demonstrated to be no more effective than placebo (see, for example, Ross, 2006). Now admittedly, there have been ample studies that report effectiveness. As clearly demonstrated by Read and Bentall (2010) though, such studies are inherently flawed, with, for example, no criterion of improvement provided or improvement being predicated solely on the subjective opinion of caregivers.”

“Additionally — and not surprisingly, given what has been revealed to date, as Breggin (1991) and Burstow (2015) have demonstrated — there is a one-to-one ratio between the damage done and the so-called therapeutic effect. An added reality which helps one ferret out the truth of what is happening here is that ECT is overwhelmingly given to two particular constituencies — women and the elderly. (For a strong feminist and anti-ageist analysis, see Burstow, 2006) Albeit the largest and most extensive study in ECT history (Sackeim et al., 2007) conclusively establishes that these are the very groups that incur the greatest damage from the procedure.”

I hope that you are able to respond to this Email and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.   I cannot stay silent when I hear of women being subject to abuse in psychiatric settings.  I could not stay silent when it was happening to my son in Stratheden Hospital.

Yours sincerely,

Chrys Muirhead (Mrs)”

cc Prof Douglas Steele, Dr David Christmas, Lesley McClay, Shona Robison, Joe Fitzpatrick, Deirdre Evans, Prof Steve Lawrie


I wonder what the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN) is up to?

It’s been a while since I perused the Scottish ECT Accreditation Network (SEAN) website so I’ve just had a quick look through to see what’s going down, in terms of involuntary shock treatment, the user reference group and what the statistics might be saying.


photo from University of Michigan website

Although the latter doesn’t really tell us anything about what the people who get ECT feel like.  There has been no service user controlled/led ECT research undertaken in Scotland.  And the SEAN figures are based on assessments done by the treating doctors.  It is not any sort of independent, controlled assessment of the usefulness of this treatment.

The SEAN 2013 annual report summary says that in 2012 there were 360 patients getting ECT, most of them with a depression diagnosis, 61% of these found anti-depressants to be of no use (like me) and 32% got it without consenting to it.  Which means involuntary or against their will.

Of the people who agreed to have it (and some may have been persuaded, as in if you don’t take treatment then you’ll have to stay longer in hospital, as I heard an older female patient about my age say in an acute ward last year) 43% didn’t show a definite improvement.  Which is nearly half of the folk getting it.  Nearly a third got headaches.  Five had critical incidents

I’m not seeing anything in the summary about ratios of women to men getting ECT so will check out the full report.   Ah yes, now I see it, 65% women to 35% men getting it.  As usual it says that this equates to the ratios of women to men being treated for depressive illness.  (you can see why men don’t want to see their GP if they are in a low mood).  And the mean age is 58 for both sexes. 

Checking out the SEAN reference group page on the website, service user and carer section, and it is blank.  Obviously nothing to report there then. 

More anon ….