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article imageForcible Use of Electrical Shock Therapy Challenged by Patient, Human Rights Groups

By Carol Forsloff     Dec 17, 2008 in Health
Treatment for the mentally ill can be difficult when those who need medication or help refuse it. People who are depressed or suffer from schizophrenia can be candidates for ECT when they are considered to be at risk for harming themselves or others.
In St. Paul, Minnesota Raymond Sandford, 54, who is chronically mentally ill, has refused shock therapy, after previously being forced to have it. This has caused considerable response from human rights groups in support of Sanford.. Shock therapy has been found useful for the treatment of folks with psychiatric problems for many years, and its advocates support its continuation. Patients reject it sometimes, and are nevertheless forced to use it through court orders that human rights groups protest, as has happened with Sandford.
Electric shock therapy, also called electro convulsive therapy or the abbreviation ECT, creates a seizure response in the brain. The purpose is to treat the brain’s chemical balances. Experts state they believe that ECT was once overused and therefore got a bad reputation. These days the procedure is used selectively and is performed in a hospital operating or recovery room, where vital signs are continuously monitored. Hospitals are required to obtain patient consent before performing the procedure.
People who are depressed or suffer from mania or schizophrenia can be candidates for ECT when they are considered to be at risk for harming themselves or others. This includes suicide attempts or the refusal to eat, drink or take medications. A recommendation for the procedure is made by a psychiatrist when the patient needs immediate intervention to prevent that patient from being self destructive or hurting others. It is used when medications such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medications have proved ineffective in managing severe symptoms.
Ever since “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” dramatized ECT, the public has had a bad impression of it. The procedures described in the movie were over-dramatized and not at all the way ECT is used today. Nevertheless, since ECT has a bad name, many people resist the procedure because they only know what they have seen in the movies. But medical experts say that ECT can sometimes be the treatment of choice.
Medhelp emphasizes ECT to be a safe and very effective way to treat depression. It is also considered as treatment for psychotic symptoms. The procedure is usually given three times weekly until the patient stabilizes. Sandford had been given the procedure regularly for the past six months since his behavior had become particularly unacceptable as reported by the doctors at the group home where he had been living. Sandford’s mother said that he had called her and said, ”'Mother, I hate this. I'm afraid, it's awful." Sanford has had manic and bipolar symptoms most of his life.
Since he was a teenager, Raymond's mother, Marilyn said her son had been plagued with bipolar, manic symptoms. She is concerned that Raymond might be receiving too much ECT and that it may be used just to subdue rather than treat him. She would prefer that the therapy be used as needed rather than constantly. Given the literature about the use of ECT repeatedly on a long-term basis when there is no improvement in the patient, perhaps the Marilyn’s questions will be given strong consideration by County District Civil Court Judge Mary Beth Dorn, who is said to have taken the matter under advisement and who would be making a decision soon.
Raymond Sanford’s case has provoked considerable response in support of his protest from human rights advocacy groups in Minnesota because he has been forced to receive ECT against his will. These groups consider ECT administered in that fashion to be a violation of Raymond Sanford’s rights and have asked for intercession from the Governor of Minnesota. Groups as far away as Ireland are joining American human rights advocates in protesting the use of ECT against a patient’s will.
More about Electrical shock therapy, Human Rights, Mentally ill
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