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Woman died following electric shock therapy

Inquest told: “It’s a slightly controversial treatment – people are careful and it’s done in the most safe and humane way"

John Garvey

John Garvey


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A HUNGERFORD woman died following a session of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), an inquest heard.

Doctors and psychiatrists at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading administered the shock to her temples in a bid to cure a depression that had led to the 57-year-old becoming almost catatonic.

But despite an encouraging immediate response, catering assistant Kathryn Carbone relapsed into a seizure which caused her heart to stop.

Tragically, the hearing in Reading Town Hall was told, Mrs Carbone had been struggling to cope with her 61-year-old husband’s terminal brain turmour.

Carbine ‘Tony’ Carbone has since died and the couple’s young son is being cared for by relatives, said assistant Berkshire coroner Alison McCormick.

A jury had been enpanelled for the two-day hearing, which concluded on Thursday, January 9, and Ms McCormick told them: “You will have to decide whether there was any causal connection between the ECT and her death.”

They heard that Mrs Carbone, who lived in Chilton Way, had become obsessed with the idea that her digestive system had stopped working and was reluctant to eat or drink.

As her weight plummeted, doctors and psychiatrists from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust tried a number of different treatments and anti-depressant drugs, to no avail.

By June 2018, said consultant psychiatrist Dr Navyjot Sodhi, Mrs Carbone presented as “nearly catatonic” and almost unable to respond to questions.

She had been treated at both the Royal Berkshire Hospital and at Prospect Park Hospital in Tilehurst with little or no progress, the jury heard.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Matthew Lowe said Mrs Carbone was averse to being fed by nasogastric tube and had pulled it out on at least one occasion.

Eventually ECT was considered.

Dr Lowe explained: “Statistically it’s a very good treatment in that situation.

“It’s a slightly controversial treatment – people are careful and it’s done in the most safe and humane way.

“There are incredibly strict protocols and the Royal College of Psychiatry keeps a very careful watch over places that administer it.”

By July that year, the inquest heard, Mrs Carbone was “paralysed with fear” and suffering severe delusions.

Dr Lowe said: “She would stand by the bed and just gaze, with a very unhappy expression on her face.

“It was very distressing to see.”

The decision was taken, in consultation with her family, to induce a controlled seizure with ECT.

On July 24, 2018, the inquest heard, a specialist team began preparing Mrs Carbone for the treatment.

She was anaesthetised and given one dose of electricity via her temples.

When she came round, the inquest heard, her condition seemed to have improved a little and she was moved to a recovery ward.

But some time later, the jury was told, a nurse found her suffering a seizure which caused her heart to stop.

A cardiac team was unable to revive her.

A medical review found no evidence of any mistakes in the treatment or after-care and consultant pathologist Dr Colin McCormick, who carried out the post mortem examination, said: “I could find no evidence of adverse effects from the ECT.”

He conceded that there was a small risk of death from ECT, but added: “I could find no positive correlation. It was entirely inconclusive.

“The cause of death was unascertained, from my perspective.”

Jurors returned an ‘open’ verdict.

The verdict means the jury confirmed the death was suspicious, but was unable to reach any firm conclusion.

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Article comments



    12/02/2020 - 20:36

    probably shouldn't have shocked her then


  • @CherylPrax

    06/02/2020 - 11:34

    In Elsie Tindle's case the verdict was as follows, "Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper, who performed the post-mortem on Miss Tindle, concluded the formal cause of death as anoxic-ischemic brain damage, due to status epilepticus, due to electroconvulsive therapy."


  • @CherylPrax

    06/02/2020 - 11:30

    ECT was the likely cause of death. No doubt they did not investigate enough. Here is a similar case - Elsie Tindle


    • nick_webb

      17/03/2020 - 15:11

      Royal Berkshire Hospital made a makeshift ECT clinic with support from Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for this patient... Would Kathryn Carbone still be alive if Royal Berkshire Hospital didn't go and resort to doing something like this? A makeshift ECT clinic that has no proper traceability or transparency?


  • @CherylPrax

    06/02/2020 - 11:28

    The manufacturers of Thymatron ECT machines, Somatics, were recently forced to add 'Permanent brain damage' to their list of 'side effects' after they were sued (and settled out of court) by damaged patients. ECT brain concussion is a temporary 'fix' to depression. The depression comes back and now you have permanent brain damage.


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