Right to Refuse Electroshock Update 1 '97

Report on the meeting:

The North West Right to Refuse Electroshock held a packed public meeting on 4th November to discuss results of a survey of hospitals. Jean Taylor from SHOCK, a group in Blackpool that has been campaigning for some years, spoke about her experiences of resisting ECT, and about ways she succeeded and ways she was beaten by the system.
Penny Taylor from Having a Voice and North Manchester Users Group, spoke about experiences of people in her group. Representatives of the legal firm Alexander Harris then told the meeting of their success in obtaining legal aid (financial help for people taking cases to court) for a client who had been badly damaged by ECT and is now suing the local health authority, and of the new revelations of faulty machines being sold in Britain. Alex Doherty`s work on exposing this in Scotland was singled out as an example of campaigning activity.
Adam James from the North West Right to Refuse Electroshock campaign discussed the results of our survey. From the survey it was clear that many more women were given ECT than men in the hospitals that replied, and there was a blatant attempt to conceal the lack of choice that women and men had about whether to have ECT or not. Our survey made the hospital administrators jump -- we let them know that we were going to discuss their responses publicly and gave them a date to give us an answer -- and now they know we are watching them, and more people are becoming more confident to join those who are watching, taking power back from the psychiatric apparatus that usually has it easy as far as observation and control are concerned.
We know from the testimony of patients, clinical psychologists and psychiatric nurses working in local hospitals that threats of all kinds are made to make people comply. Later in the meeting the producer and presenter of the BBC programme `Here and Now` spoke about their attempt to put the issue on the public agenda, and after the meeting people who had been subjected to forced ECT told them of their experiences.
The next step is to take the Right to Refuse into the unions, and Bury Trades Council (in the North East of Manchester) has already published an article about the campaign in their newsletter `Solidarity`. 140,000 shocks are administered to 20,000 patients a year in British Hospitals, and many of the nurses involved have no right to refuse assisting in this barbaric practice. An article in Psychiatric Bulletin revealed that 45 percent of junior doctors did not have accurate knowledge about what the current (themselves largely mythical, it should be said) criteria for assessing and delivering `shock` were! Many more junior staff are revolted by the procedure. It is up to us now to make it clear that we will have nothing to do with it, and to fight for the right for all to say no and to be taken seriously.

Ian Parker - Professor of Psychology
Discourse Unit - Psychology - Bolton Institute
Deane Road - Bolton BL3 5AB UK
email: I.A.Parker@Bolton.ac.uk
tel: (+44) (0)1204 903150
fax: (+44) (0)1204 399074

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