Electroconvulsive Therapy Malpractice: Verdict for the Defense

Theodore Goodman, W. Vaughn McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives Malpractice cases involving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) are rare. Even rarer are those malpractice cases alleging ECT-related brain damage. The few cases of ECT malpractice lawsuits are not described in the medical literature in detail. Methods We provide a detailed account of a case of a patient and subsequent alleged ECT-related malpractice. The details of the case were collated using the handwritten notes of one of the authors who was present at the trial and the pretrial documents of discovery that were entered into evidence. Results The plaintiff alleged complete autobiographical amnesia after ECT, supposedly as a result of ECT-related brain damage. The defense was aided by the presence of extensive neurological examination and brain imaging both before and after ECT. The defense team also offered to the jury the concept of "dissociative amnesia" as an alternative explanation for the plaintiff's memory complaints. The case went to trial and was successfully defended. Discussion Electroconvulsive therapy malpractice cases alleging brain damage can be successfully defended, and the successful defense is aided by adequate documentation before, during, and after ECT. Conclusions Malpractice cases, especially if they are baseless, can occur unpredictably, but they can be defended if the medical documentation is thorough.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-158
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of ECT
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015


  • amnesia
  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • malpractice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Electroconvulsive Therapy Malpractice: Verdict for the Defense'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this