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Ethical Hum Psychol Psychiatry. 2006 Spring;8(1):17-28.

The sham ECT literature: implications for consent to ECT.

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Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma, 1701 Gateway, Suite 349, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.


The author reviewed the placebo-controlled literature on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression. No study demonstrated a significant difference between real and placebo (sham) ECT at 1 month posttreatment. Many studies failed to find a difference between real and sham ECT even during the period of treatment. Claims in textbooks and review articles that ECT is effective are not consistent with the published data. A large, properly designed study of real versus sham ECT should be undertaken. In the absence of such a study, consent forms for ECT should include statements that there is no controlled evidence demonstrating any benefit from ECT at 1 month posttreatment. Consent forms should also state that real ECT is only marginally more effective than placebo.

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