Montreal | Demonstration to demand the abolition of electroshock therapy in psychiatry

(Montreal) On Saturday morning, a demonstration took place at Place Émilie-Gamelin, in Montreal, to demand the abolition of electric shock therapy in psychiatry. This demonstration takes place on the occasion of Mother’s Day, because according to the organizers, two thirds of electric shocks are given to women.

Posted at 2:17 PM

Karine Desautels
The Canadian Press

According to data shared by the Pare-chocs Commission, a group of organizations campaigning for the abolition of electric shock in Quebec, 50% of the electric shock would be given to women aged 50 and older and 41% to people aged 65 and over. older. Nearly 10% would be administered to women aged 80 and over.

The group notes that Quebec has gone from 4,000 electroshock sessions in 1988 to more than 11,000 in 2017. The spokesperson for Pare-chocs, Ghislain Goulet, claims that electroshocks will be abolished. He wants this treatment to be placed under ‘high surveillance’ in the short term and to become the subject of public debate.

The coordinator of the network of regional tables of women’s groups in Quebec, Marie-Andrée Gauthier, denounces that women are more focused on electroshock treatments.

“In 2022, not only are electroshocks still used in some Quebec hospitals, but women are still overrepresented,” said Gautier.

She believes that the electroshock administered to these women without their free and informed consent is part of a continuum of gender-based violence.

It was the 14and time this event took place. Due to the pandemic, the event was shut down for two years.

The executive director of the Association of Intervention Groups in Defense of Health Rights in Quebec, Doris Provencher, said she was outraged by repeating the same message to the government year after year. “I’m tired of always coming here and hitting the same nail,” she said.

Electric shocks to an 82 year old lady

Last March, a Quebec Supreme Court ruling authorized a hospital center in Abitibi-Témiscamingue to subject an 82-year-old woman against her will to up to 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock).

The regulation also provides for chemical or physical coercive measures in the event of physical resistance “to ensure his safety or that of others”. For example, the lady could be strapped in to undergo the treatment.

Doris Provencher believes this is a blatant case of abuse. “Quebec has a law against assault […] and if you find yourself with a treatment order like the lady from Abitibi, you are in a vulnerable situation’, she berates.

The causes that led to the octogenarian’s state of emergency were not specified in the order.

Unrecognized problem

Dozens of protesters attended Saturday in hopes that their message will be heard by the Quebec government, but most importantly, they want to raise awareness about this little-known technique that is increasingly being used.

Ghislain Goulet mentions that while there are quantitative statistics on the number of electroshocks administered, there is “no follow-up to this risky and controversial technique”. For example, it’s not known whether deaths are related to this treatment, he says.

“We want to be heard by the public. Most people think it’s gone since the 1950’s, but it’s not. It even expands. We want to make the public aware of this technique, which still exists,” says Mr Goulet.

The latter also denounces the differences in the number of times electroshock therapy is used in psychiatry between different regions of Quebec.

According to data from the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), Centre-du-Québec is the sector that most often resorts to this practice. More than 1,550 electric shocks were performed in 2019, a rate of 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants, which is about six times higher than the average for all of Quebec, which is 1.5.

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