An episode of "The Dr. Oz Show" aired this week that talked about the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a process in which grand mal seizures are electrically induced to treat severe depression.
The episode, which was titled "The Shock That Could Save Your Life," aired on Jan. 25. The next day, the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) issued a statement asking the show’s producers to provide “balanced and truthful coverage” of the risks of ECT.
“ECT remains one of the most controversial psychiatric practices," said NCMHR director Lauren Spiro. "We are surprised that Dr. Oz would air such a one-sided show.”
The FDA still classifies the procedure in the high-risk Class III category, despite pressure from equipment manufacturers to reclassify it as lower-risk Class II.
According to the NCMHR, individuals who undergo ECT (as well as a number of mental health experts) claim it has “disabling effects” that can include permanent memory loss and cognitive deficits. As these effects “outweigh possible benefits,” the coalition advocates that potential recipients be properly informed of the risks before making a choice.
"We recommend more media coverage of innovative, non-invasive, cost-effective mental health interventions, including 'peer-run services' delivered by people who have recovered from severe mental health issues," Spiro said.
Several viewers who say they have received ECT have posted comments on the show's website to protest how the therapy was depicted. Both sides appear to have strong opinions on the matter, but where does the truth lie? Maybe somewhere in between?