Emergency ECT in an incapacitated, medically compromised patient with Huntington's disease

Michelle Magid, Kenneth Trevino, William H. Reid, Sheila Jalalat, Mustafa M. Husain, David A. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is infrequently considered an "emergency" medical procedure; however, there are certain conditions in which there is considerable urgency to initiate ECT. For example, prompt administration of ECT to treat neuroleptic malignant syndrome and malignant catatonia is necessary to improve a patient's overall prognosis and potentially save the patient's life. In this case, a 57-year-old woman with Huntington's disease was admitted to our medical intensive care unit for failure to thrive due to severe psychotic symptoms. Prior to her admission, the patient had become increasingly psychotic and agitated, resulting in her refusal and/or inability to eat. Efforts to treat her severe psychiatric and behavioral symptoms with various psychopharmacological strategies were largely unsuccessful. As the patient's physical health continued to decline, with loss of approximately 35 pounds over 2 months, her family began making arrangements to transfer her to a hospice facility. The day before she was to be transferred, the psychiatry consultation-liaison service recommended ECT. Unfortunately, this recommendation was complicated because the patient was unable to provide consent. This case report describes the legal and administrative process used to ethically and legally administer ECT without consent from the patient or a court-appointed guardian in order to treat a life-threatening condition. To the best of our knowledge, this report documents the first time ECT has been granted "medical emergency" status in Texas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-475
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of psychiatric practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 8 2014


  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Emergency medical services
  • Government regulation
  • Huntington's disease
  • Informed consent
  • Jurisprudence
  • Mental competency
  • Treatment outcome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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