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

(Montreal) A rally was held at Place Émilie-Gamelin in Montreal on Saturday morning to demand the abolition of electroshock therapy in psychiatric settings. This demonstration is taking place on the occasion of Mother’s Day because, according to the organizers, two thirds of the electric shocks are administered to women.

Posted at 2:17pm

Karine Desautels
The Canadian Press

According to the Pare Chocs Committee, a group of organizations working to end electroshocks in Quebec, 50% of electroshocks were given to women aged 50 and older and 41% to people aged 65 and older. Almost 10% would be given to women aged 80 and over.

The group says Quebec has gone from 4,000 electroshock sessions in 1988 to more than 11,000 in 2017. Pare-chocs spokesman Ghislain Goulet claims that electric shocks will be abolished. In the short term, he wants this treatment to be placed under “high scrutiny” and become the subject of public debate.

The coordinator of the network of regional tables of women’s groups in Quebec, Marie-Andrée Gauthier, denounces the fact that women are being treated more specifically with electric shocks.

“In 2022, not only will electroshocks still be used in some Quebec hospitals, but women will still be overrepresented,” says Gautier.

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

It was the 14thand Time when this event took place. The event had gone on a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

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

Electroshocks in 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 to a maximum of 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock) against her will.

The ordinance also provides for chemical or physical coercion in the event of physical resistance “to ensure his safety or that of others.” For example, the lady could be tied up to receive the treatment.

Doris Provencher believes that this is a blatant case of abuse. “Quebec has a law on abuse […] and when you find yourself with a treatment arrangement like the lady from Abitibi, you find yourself in a vulnerable situation,” she denounces.

The reasons that led to the eighty-year-old’s plight are not mentioned in the order.

Unknown problem

Dozens of protesters were in attendance on Saturday, hoping their message would be heard by the Quebec government, but above all they want to raise awareness of this little-known technique that is increasingly being practiced.

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

“We want to be heard by the public. Most people think it’s gone since the 1950s, but it hasn’t. It’s even being expanded. We want to make the public aware of this technique, which is still around,” says Mr. Goulet.

The latter also denounces the differences in the frequency with which electroshock therapy is used in psychiatry between different regions of Quebec.

According to 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 administered in 2019, a rate of 6.5 per 1,000 people, which is about six times higher than the average for all of Quebec, which is 1.5.

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