Doctors, Guardian Clash Over Shock Therapy for 80-Year-Old

<i> Associated Press</i>

An 80-year-old nursing home patient has refused the electroshock therapy doctors say would cure her depression, and her legal guardian is asking a court to decide the case.

“I don’t think we should try to force happiness on her under these circumstances,” Patrick Murphy, Cook County public guardian, said Thursday.

At Murphy’s request, the state Appellate Court indefinitely extended an order Thursday postponing the execution of a trial court’s ruling that electro-convulsive therapy, or ECT, is beneficial to Lucille Austwick, said court chief deputy Tom Palella.

Austwick, a retired telephone operator who has no family, lives in a nursing home in Cicero, Ill. She suffers from senile dementia and depression; the courts have declared her mentally incompetent, Murphy said.


Her doctors, who did not return telephone calls seeking comment Thursday, said her condition had led her to stop eating and to a life-threatening weight loss.

A 14-year-old state law allows the court to rule that ECT is beneficial for a patient, but Austwick says she doesn’t want to undergo electroshock therapy, said Laurel Spahn, an attorney for the state Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, which is representing Austwick.

But Austwick’s doctors were so adamant about the treatment that Murphy decided to bring the issue before the court.