Ethics Considerations in Laws Restricting Incapacitated Patients' Access to ECT

Ana S Iltis, Reese Fortier, Noah Ontjes, William V McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a safe and effective treatment used for numerous psychiatric conditions. While many patients for whom ECT is indicated are able to give voluntary informed consent, some lack decision-making capacity (DMC), at least temporarily. Case reports from numerous countries involving ECT for patients who lack DMC indicate overall positive outcomes and high patient satisfaction with results comparable with those of consenting patients; some patients regain DMC with ECT. Laws and regulations pertaining to ECT vary widely around the world and across the United States. Many United States jurisdictions over-regulate ECT relative to other interventions with comparable risks and potential benefits. While laws restricting whether and under what circumstances patients who lack DMC may receive ECT likely are aimed at protecting incapacitated persons, such laws sometimes undermine important ethics obligations and should be re-evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
StateE-pub ahead of print - Jan 16 2023


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