The importance of candidness in electroconvulsive therapy

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by reporters is “Why did you start ect.org?” The answer is that I started it over a decade ago to simply share information about electroconvulsive therapy.

I am not opposed to anyone having ECT as long as it’s an informed (emphasis) choice. Unfortunately, the majority of patients are given a one-minute sales pitch that overplays the effectiveness and mostly ignores any side effects.

My strongest belief is that if doctors were candid about it all, and took the time needed to answer questions truthfully, outcomes would be better. Even when the results were bad.

In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Dan Shapiro, who has survived battles with deadly cancer, says the very same thing:

NYT: You quizzed your radiation oncologist about treatment side effects. If all patients did this, wouldn’t some refuse treatment?

Dr. Shapiro: About 85 percent of patients are information-seeking and want to know the limitations as well as the strengths of their treatment. Unfortunately, a lot of physicians overestimate the treatment benefits and underplay the side effects. In the short term more people accept treatment, then become surprised, dismayed and often panicked when predictable side effects occur. If patients know about side effects in advance and are taught how to anticipate and cope with them, they would do a lot better.

This so clearly defines how I feel that I believe I’m going to add it to ect.org in a prominent way.