A call for a total ban on the controversial psychiatric practice of electroshock will be made at a public protest in Cork next Saturday.

The practice, which psychiatrists refer to as Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT), involves passing an electric current through the brain, sufficient to deliberately induce a grand-mal seizure. While they say the person is anaesthetised, they also admit that they do not know how it actually works.

Opponents say the practice is traumatic, inhuman and outdated. They say it causes brain damage, confusion and permanent memory loss leaving people feeling somehow incomplete. Any claimed improvement they say is only temporary and generally requires even further regular maintenance shocks. They also say it is given to twice as many women than men, many of them elderly and is frequently given without fully informed consent.

While some psychiatrists defend its use as a last resort, many others refuse to ever use it at all. Of 66 approved centres in Ireland, 43 never use it. Two European countries, Slovenia and Luxembourg exercise a total ban.

The most recent figures from The Mental Health Commission show that 263 people were electroshocked in 2016. Seventy-nine per cent of them received one programme (consisting of 12 shocks), 16% received 2 programmes and 5% received 5 or more programmes. A total of 2558 individual shocks were administered. The Mental Health Act 2001 still allows it to be administered on the say-so of two psychiatrists and any Advanced Directive by a person saying they do not want it can be legally overruled.

A recent development in a US lawsuit taken by anti-shock activist Deborah Schwartzkopff resulted in an admission by shock machine manufacturer Somantics that their devices cause ‘permanent brain damage’, an acknowledgement useful for other victims seeking redress.

The Cork protest is being held in conjunction with similar protests around the world and takes place outside Bishop Lucey Park on The Grand Parade, commencing at 2pm. It is being organised by MindFreedom Ireland, a Cork-based psychiatric survivor group which campaigns for human rights and is opposed to any forced practices, be they electroshocking or forced drugging. People who have been victims of the practice will give testimony of their experiences.


Jim Maddock, May 6th, 2019. Phone: 021 4894303. Mobile: 086 0624445.