"All we're asking for is that all psychiatrists should follow good practice guidelines," said Dr Achal Bhagat, a senior consultant psychiatrist at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, and director of Sarthak, the organisation that has approached the court.
A nationwide survey on the practice of electroconvulsive therapy in India, conducted in the early 1990s, showed that 55% of psychiatrists who used the procedure did so without administering anaesthesia.Although new surveys have not been done, doctors say there is sufficient anecdotal evidence that electroconvulsive therapy continues to be overused and administered without anaesthesia.
"There are cases where psychiatrists appear not to have followed established guidelines of providing alternative treatment options before taking a decision to provide electroconvulsive therapy," said Dr Bhagat
Volunteers for Sarthak
say they have encountered patients who have received minor and even severe injuries while receiving electroconvulsive therapy without anaesthesia.Advocates of electroconvulsive therapy argue that its practice in India should be viewed in the country's social and economic context.
"Even small towns in India today have the facilities for anaesthesia," said Dr Bhagat
said studies that have established the safety of electroconvulsive therapy have been based on the use of anaesthesia and the relatively superior "brief pulse" devices.