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Protestors Rally Against Electro-Shock Therapy - Doctors Insist It's Safe

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posted 03:29 PM EST, Mon May 12, 2008
Protestors Rally Against Electro-Shock Therapy - Doctors Insist It's Safe © Photo: Squeaky Marmot

Protesters in Ottawa want legislation against the use of electro-shock therapy. Doctors defend it as an effective and safe procedure, that sometimes works when nothing else will.

A crowd of protesters rallied in Ottawa on the weekend, calling for legislation banning the use of electro-shock therapy in the treatment of depression.

Protesters say that electro convulsive therapy is a dangerous and painful procedure that causes memory loss and does irreparable harm. Lead protester, Sue Clark-Wittenberg, lamented that the electro-shock therapy she had more than 3 decades ago has kept her from getting a job and living a normal adult life. She says, "The bottom line is electroshock always damages the brain. Electroshock always causes memory loss."

Most doctors disagree. Dr. Nizar Ladha, a St John's based psychiatrist says that he has been using the procedure for decades, says that although it does cause the convulsions, that they are not painful - and says that it offers relief from depression to many who find no symptoms abatement from conventional medications. He says electro-shock therapy saves lives, and that, "As an effective and lifesaving treatment, it rates right up there with the discovery of penicillin."

The Canadian Psychiatry Association allows the procedure which it considers safe and effective. The Canadian Medical Association acknowledges that electro shock therapy does cause memory loss.

The technique was used about 15 000 times last year, a usage rate that has remained relatively static over the years. Toronto psychiatrist Dr. David Goldbloom says that he expects usage rates to increase, and that protests against the procedure and numerous government inquiries into its safety, have paradoxically increased awareness of its efficacy – saying, "Each time the conclusion is the same — that the balance of evidence supports retaining this to try to help people with depression."

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