Irish Government Covers Up ECT Statistics




State agencies collude to cover up extent of ECT use

In an article in the current issue of the Irish Medical Times, Dr Michael Corry shows how two statutory bodies and the Inspector of Mental Health have ceased recording statistics on the use of electroconvulsive therapy in mental hospitals or units, are covering up the extent of its use and abuse, and are hindering researchers who seek to study this area in Ireland.

The article studies all the annual reports of the Mental Health Commission since its establishment in 2002, the reports of the Inspector of Mental Health, and the previous practice under the Health Research Board, which has since abandoned all research in this field. It also lists many instances of dubious practice in recording visits to mental hospitals.

The Wellbeing Foundation has republished this article on its website at It has also published a contribution to the debate on ECT by eminent neuroscientist Professor Peter Sterling, who demonstrates conclusively both the short- and long-term damage caused to patients by the administration of ECT. See

Since 21 June 2008 the abolition of ECT has become a human rights issue, when a private members bill was debated for two hours in Seanad Eireann. It was proposed by Green party senators Deirdre de Burca and Dan Boyle, and the Independent senator David Norris. Since the debate inspired by this Bill began, most institutional psychiatrists in Ireland have claimed that their profession is united in advocating ECT and have rejected accusations that it damages mental and intellectual functioning in several serious ways. This is simply not true: their profession, at least elsewhere, is seriously divided on this issue and cannot agree either on the efficacy of ECT or its serious effects. 

Now we show that no evidence is being recorded by the responsible statutory bodies to allow policy-makers and legislators to make a judgment on the use of ECT. 
In such circumstances, the politicians who will shortly return to the debate on the three senators’ Bill to ban involuntary electroshock must prioritise the political, ethical and human rights aspects of the current ECT regime in our mental health system and avoid the medical debate.
With no evidence of either use or misuse being collected by those the legislature charged with this responsibility, the issue should be decided on one criterion — do current rules on the administration of ECT conform even to the minimum standards required to uphold the human rights of the patient? The answer to this is clearly NO — and on that basis, and that basis alone, the senators’ Bill should be passed into law.

In the meantime, the Minister of State with responsibility for mental health, John Maloney, must suspend the use of ECT until this cover-up is ended and a proper regime of gathering evidence is re-instituted.

The Wellbeing Foundation is publishing a great deal of material on ECT in order to inform this debate. Visit our website to download this material. 

Supporters can also download the e-mail addresses of all government ministers, TDs and Senators via the Wellbeing website. Please do take advantage of this facility to write emails to all members of Government and the Legislature demanding that the use of ECT be suspended until the information black hole is ended, and to demand that the Private Members’ Bill to end forced ECT and lobotomy is accepted by the Government and passed into law as soon as possible.


Dr Corry’s article and Professor Sterling’s paper can be downloaded from the home page of our website.

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