Electroshock: Lawsuits and Death Findings

The long-term damaging effects of ECT has led to wrongful death lawsuits, as well as other grounds for law suits, including assault and battery and ECT causing personal injury, including brain damage and memory loss. The following is an example of coroner inquest findings and lawsuits, indicting the increasing recourse electroshock patients or their families are taking.

2005: A South Carolina jury determined 60-year-old Peggy Salters’ memory loss of 30 years was due to ECT. Mrs. Salters held a Master’s of Science in nursing but lost her knowledge of nursing skills and was unable to return to work after ECT.  She was awarded over $635,177.[1]

2007:  Richard Green from the UK was awarded £500,000 ($975,000) in an out-of-court settlement over brain damage that left him paralyzed from the chest down, and with speech difficulties from ECT, during which his airways became blocked.[2]

2018:  The South Carolina appellate court revived a malpractice case that alleges 86 ECTs left Clair Craver Johnson with substantial memory loss.[3] The repeated use caused her “excruciating, intractable pain and suffering, loss of memory….”[4]

2018:  A California class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court against Somatics LLC, the manufacturer of an ECT device, alleging negligence and product liability due to the manufacturer’s failure to warn of inherent risks of the ECT device, including brain damage.[5]  Somatics “spent the entire litigation vehemently denying that brain injury was even a possible result of ECT,” according to attorney Connor M. Karen, Esq, but then on the eve of the trial settled the case. In contrast to its defense, Somatics instead issued a warning of “permanent brain damage” in its new ECT risk disclosures of October 19, 2018.[6]

2018:  A coroner in Victoria, Australia, ruled that Gerard Helliar (62) died a preventable death after forcibly given hundreds bouts of ECT.  The coroner found no evidence that the involuntary ECT could have given the grandfather any relief.[7]

2018:  A Victoria, Australian court strengthened protections for mental health patients opposed to receiving ECT ruling that state “treatment orders” cannot undermine a person’s human rights and right to refuse ECT. Two patients had been held under a compulsory treatment order, authorized by the Victorian Mental Health Act, and forced to undergo ECT against their wishes. Justice Kevin Bell said that in one case, the patient had “understood that ECT was a procedure that would result in her having seizures and … she was concerned that it may cause her to have memory problems, as her legal representative submitted.” But the state/psychiatrists claimed she lacked the capacity to give informed consent because “she had not actually given careful consideration to the advantages and disadvantages of ECT.” The Judge said this was incompatible with her human rights. In the second case, a man disputed his psychiatrist’s diagnosis that he had schizophrenia and argued against the forced treatment but was subjected to it 12 times—a determination the Judge found discriminatory.  The Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) had challenged the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in forcing ECT. The ruling now provides greater consent protections.[8]

2015: A UK coroner determined that the cause of the death of Elsie Tindle (71), who suffered anoxic-ischemic (oxygen deprivation) brain damage leading to a prolonged convulsive fit was a result of ECT. [9]

1999: The family of Joseph Doherty in Scotland won an $82,600 settlement over his death from suicide while he was undergoing ECT. Medical records showed he had repeatedly refused to consent to it.[10]

1980s:  An Australian girl, “Jill,” settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount over her being given ECT without her consent. [11]

1980:  Australian actor Barry Hart was awarded $60,000 in damages over allegations of assault and battery stemming from his being given ECT without his consent while undergoing “deep sleep treatment,” a practice so dangerous it is now banned.[12]

If you know anyone whose mother, wife, sister or father, brother, son, child or friend has been killed or damaged by ECT, please fill out this form here.


[1]  “Landmark Decision: Jury awards $635,177 Damages for Memory Loss from Electroshock,” AHRP, 8 Jul. 2005, http://ahrp.org/landmark-decision-jury-awards-635177-damages-for-memory-loss-from-electroshock/.

[2]“Leeds Man Awarded Half a Million,” ECT.org, https://www.ect.org/news/leeds.html.

[3] “SC Appeals Court Reopens Electroshock Med Mal Case,” Law360, 8 Feb. 2018, https://www.law360.com/articles/1010168/sc-appeals-court-reopens-electroshock-med-mal-case.

[4] “Shock treatment case seems headed to South Carolina Supreme Court,” The Post and Courier, 18 Mar. 2018, https://www.postandcourier.com/health/shock-treatment-case-seems-headed-to-south-carolina-supreme-court/article_8d354f52-2618-11e8-8af8-0739a09de9db.html.

[5] http://ectjustice.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ECT-Class-Complaint.pdf; http://news.cchrint.org/2017/10/31/lawsuit-against-electroshock-treatment-device-makers/

[6] “ECT Device Manufacturer Issues New Warning of ‘Permanent Brain Damage,'” https://www.madinamerica.com/2018/11/ect-manufacturer-warns-permanent-brain-damage/.

[7] Aisha Down, “Grandfather forced to undergo ECT before ‘preventable’ death,” The Age, 18 Apr. 2018, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/grandfather-forced-to-undergo-ect-before-preventable-death-20180418-p4zacy.html.

[8] “Orders for forced ‘shock therapy’ breached human rights of schizophrenia patients, court rules,” The Guardian, 1 Nov. 2018, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-01/human-rights-must-be-upheld-forced-shock-ect-therapy-court-rules/10454750.

[9]  Petra Silfverskiold, “Electric shock therapy led to Sunderland patient having permanent fit,” Daily Mail (UK), 10 Mar. 2016, http://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/local/all-news/electric-shock-therapy-led-to-sunderland-patient-having-permanent-fit-1-7786233.

[10] Max Daily, “Electric Shock Victims Win Historic Victory,” Big Issue, UK, 3 Oct. 1999.

[11] Sarah Chester, “The shock of an unwanted treatment,” The Age, 9 May 1984.

[12]“The Deep Sleep Tragedy,” Public Interest Advocacy Centre, NSW, https://www.piac.asn.au/legal-help/public-interest-cases/deep-sleep-tragedy/.

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