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Shock therapy on the rise in Sweden: report

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13:15 CET+01:00
Swedish hospitals are increasingly turning to electroshock therapy to treat depression, but have failed to adequately warn patients about the risk for memory loss associated with the treatment, a Sveriges Television (SVT) report reveals.

“Four or five years of my life have just disappeared,” Helena, a mother of two, told the SVT investigative news programme Uppdrag granskning on an episode due for broadcast on Wednesday night, according to Aftonbladet.

After trying a number of different drugs which failed to have any effect on her depression, Helena underwent electroshock therapy, more formally known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), treatment in 2004.

While Helena’s medical files show that she was opposed to the treatment at the time, she was eventually convinced to proceed by her husband, who had been assured by doctors that there was only a slight risk of memory problems which wouldn’t last more than a few hours.

But after a few treatments, it became clear that ECT had had a profound negative effect on Helena.

“I came home with an entirely different wife this weekend. I’ve never met this person. What have you done?” Helena’s husband said he told hospital staff.

According to SVT, the number of ECT treatments carried out per year in Sweden has skyrocketed since 2000 from 18,000 to 45,000.

But patients may not always be made aware of the risks of ECT before agreeing to the treatment.

According to the programme, there are two versions of an informational brochure on ECT produced by Swedish psychiatrist Håkan Odeberg and based on the findings of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

In the version distributed to patients, people considering ECT treatment can read that “research has not shown there to be any lasting memory impairments”.

But the version given to doctors says instead that research shows that patients risk permanent memory damage following ECT treatment.

When confronted with the discrepancy, Odeberg disputes the claim found in the doctors’ version of the brochure.

“I don’t see that as the scientific point of view, that ECT causes permanent damage,” he told Uppdrag granskning.

Helena was unable to have her case heard by Sweden’s Medical Responsibility Board (Hälso- och sjukvårdens ansvarsnämnd - HSAN) because more than two years had elapsed since the time of her ECT treatment.

Her husband remains haunted by the effects of his decision to go ahead with the treatment.

“I regret it now. I feel terrible with the knowledge that it was my word that resulted in it actually being carried out,” he told the programme.

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