Many treatments within the medical field have been considered controversial, but even after seventy-eight years of use electroconvulsive therapy, also referred to as ECT, is still one of the most questionable treatments. Just like any other treatment ECT has its risk and advantages, but it seems to have an even more negative connotation than other controversial treatments due to its violent history. Throughout the seventy-eight years that ECT has been around, research has been done to learn more about the treatment, which disorders it can be useful for, and what side effects can occur. The research has led to adjustments being made to the procedure and has significantly improved patient safety. The success of electroconvulsive therapy can be shown by numbers and case opinions; it may work for one person, but not another.
Several strides have been made in the medical field in regards to electroconvulsive therapy. The treatment is defined as “a medical procedure in which a brief electrical stimulus is used to induce a cerebral seizure under controlled conditions” (Enns, Reiss & Chan, 2010). It is used for a handful of mental illnesses, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, but when it was introduced in 1938 by Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bin, its main use was to treat schizophrenia (Enns, Reiss & Chan, 2010). ECT can indeed be effective for schizophrenia, but the best results are when the “… duration of [the] illness is relatively brief or when catatonic or affective symptoms are prominent” (Enns, Reiss & Chan, 2010). Unlike schizophrenia, the best results from ECT have come from treatments with patients who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and alternative methods are no longer working. Electroconvulsive therapy occurs two to three times per week and often there are twelve sessions until a patient reaches a recovery stage; if there is need for more sessions that doctor will have to re-evaluate the situation.
ECT has a rather violent history, but the procedure is much more humane now, with the use of anesthetics and muscle relaxers, than it was in the beginning of its existence. After the patient is put to sleep with the anesthetic and the muscle relaxer sets in, “Two electrodes are placed on the patient’s scalp and a current is passed between them by a machine designed for this purpose…the current lasts for a second or two and the resulting seizure for 30 seconds to a minute” (“Electroconvulsive therapy”, 2007). It is important for the current to be at a proper level because if it is too low, the treatment won’t work, and if it is too high then a longer seizure could occur and serious damage can be done to the brain.
Because of the side effects and risks, people have to freely and voluntarily consent to the treatment. In order to consent to the treatment, the patient must sign a paper but not until after the procedure is explained to him/her. The nurses and/or doctors must provide the patient with...