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Explains what electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is, when it might be used and what happens during the treatment.
This page covers the following:
You have the right to make an informed decision about whether or not to accept the treatment a doctor suggests. To consent properly you need enough information to be able to weigh up the risks and benefits of having it.
You should be given full information, in language you can understand, about:
It can be hard to take in a lot of new information in one go, so you can ask for medical staff to explain it to you more than once if necessary.
You should be given 24 hours to think about your decision.
If you agree to the treatment, you will have to sign a written consent form. Once you have signed a consent form, you should be informed that you can change your mind at any stage in the treatment and that, if you do, the treatment will be stopped.
You should also be told how you can tell staff if you have changed your mind. At each stage of the treatment, the doctor should confirm with you that you are continuing to consent.
ECTAS recommends that, if you decide to go ahead with having ECT but your relatives or close friends disagree with this treatment, this should also be recorded in your notes.
See our page on deciding whether to have ECT for more information about making this decision.
The Mental Health Act 1983 sometimes allows ECT to be given without your consent in an emergency, but only if the treatment is immediately necessary for any of the following reasons:
If you don't have capacity to give consent, treatment may be given under the Mental Health Act 1983 or, less commonly, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
If you have been detained under certain sections of the Mental Health Act 1983, you may be given ECT without your consent if all of the following apply:
If you are not detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, you may still be treated without your consent under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This can only happen if all of the following apply:
Before a decision is made on whether ECT is in your best interests, various people need to be consulted, including:
If there is a disagreement over whether ECT is in your best interests, it may be necessary to apply to the Court of Protection to resolve this disagreement.
If you are clear you do not wish to receive ECT even if your life is in danger, your advance decision needs to meet special conditions.
ECT should not be given to you if any of the following conditions apply:
Your family should also be consulted in all of these cases, if appropriate.
This is a mental health professional who has certain responsibilities related to your healthcare. They are approved to do this by the Department of Health (England) or by the Welsh Ministers (Wales).
Approved clinicians may be:
Some decisions under the Mental Health Act, such as deciding on your medication or giving you permission to leave the ward or hospital, can only be taken by approved clinicians.See our full list of legal terms.
This is an independent doctor appointed by the Care Quality Commission in England or by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. You need his or her approval to be given or continue to be given certain forms of medical treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983.
See our pages on consent to treatment for more information.See our full list of legal terms.
This information was published in July 2019. We will revise it in 2022.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.