Citizens Commission on Human Rights

The Mental Health Watchdog

Australian National Office

Torturous Electroshock in Australia


With the World Health Organization’s 10 June 2021 guidelines, comes a damning indictment of Psychiatry’s “coercive practices” including the administering of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) without consent.”1

Electroshock is the application of hundreds of volts of electricity sent searing through the brain. It is not therapy. It is torture. Side effects of ECT include memory loss, brain damage, stroke, cardiac arrest and death.2

ECT is so horrendous, to avoid it, one Australian woman would eat secretly stashed food so she could not be given the anaesthetic. When her secret stash of food was discovered, she resorted to eating grass in attempt to avoid the electroshock. She said, “I felt like I was being wheeled down to the gas chamber really.”3

Most people think it is banned due its brain damaging and potentially lethal side effects. This is not the case. ECT is widely used in Australia. There were a staggering 34,919 electroshocks funded by Medicare in 2020,4 at a cost of $5,449,620 taxpayer’s money (including anaesthetic).5

In 2018, there were 539 electroshocks given to Australian youth aged 15-19 years. This is despite the fact the World Health Organisation reporting 16 years ago that “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation,” ECT is only banned for children under 14 in WA and under 12’s in ACT.6

CCHR worked for more than a decade with like-minded groups and people to obtain the ECT ban in WA, the first ban in Australia’s history.

Electroshock is torture and must be banned immediately

Please contact your local Member of Parliament and Health Minister and ask them to make changes to your state’s mental health act so that ECT is banned and criminal penalties apply for its use. To find their contact details:

ACT: https://www.parliament.act.gov.au/
NSW: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/members/Pages/all-members.aspx
NT: https://parliament.nt.gov.au/members/by-name
Qld: https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/members/current/list
SA: http://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Members/Pages/Members.aspx
Tas: http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ha/halists.pdf and http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/lc/lclists.pdf
Vic: https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/about/people-in-parliament/members-search/list-all-members
WA: http://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/memblist.nsf/wallmembers


References

  1. “Guidance on Community Mental Health Services: Promoting Person-Centered and Rights-Based Approaches,” World Health Organization, 10 June 2021, p.7. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240025707  (to download report)
  2. “Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Devices for Class II Draft Guidance for Industry, Clinicians and Food and Drug Administration Staff,” US Food and Drug Administration, 29 Dec 2015 pages 13, 14. https://wayback.archive-it.org/7993/20191212031503/https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/electroconvulsive-therapy-ect-devices-class-ii-intended-uses ; “Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Services: Monitoring and Auditing – MHDA; Guideline, NSW Government, Health Northern Sydney Local Health District, GE2013_022, 22 June 2016, S.4 (2.3).
  3. Sarah Farnsworth, “Hundreds of patients forced to have ECT in Victoria without legal representation,” ABC News, 21 Nov.2016. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-20/patientsforced-to-have-ect-without-legal-representation/8030996
  4. Statistics generated on Medicare Australia website using MBS item codes:14224 for electroconvulsive therapy, http://medicarestatistics.humanservices.gov.au.
  5. Statistics generated on Medicare Australia website using MBS item codes:14224 for electroconvulsive therapy and 20104 for anaesthetic used for ECT, http://medicarestatistics.humanservices.gov.au/statistics/mbs_item.jsp
  6. Freedom of Information Request to Australian Department of Health, FOI 1150 Document 1, unpublished Medicare Statistics, Department of Health; WHO Resource Book on Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation, World Health Organisation, 2005, p.64 https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/default/files/mental_health/docs/who_resource_book_en.pdf; Western Australia Mental Health Act 2014, S 194, p. 145; Australian Capital Territory Mental Health Act 2015, S 147, p. 178.