ECT on shaky ground

THE future of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) could be in jeopardy if recent recommendations from a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel are accepted. 

The two companies that manufacture the machines used to deliver ECT would have to conduct new clinical trials to prove their safety and effectiveness ­ an expensive process that psychiatrists in the US and Australia say is unnecessary and potentially detrimental to patients. 

“ECT remains the most effective treatment we’ve got for serious depression,” says Dr Bill Lyndon, director of ECT at the Northside Clinic in Sydney. 

“It’s very safe and the complications and mortality are extremely small – about the same as a general anaesthetic,” he says.

Dr Lyndon, who is also a spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, says claims against ECT are not based on science. “They’re not