THERE IS scarcely a more controversial or a more widelyused treatment in contemporary British psychiatry than electroconvulsive treatment - ECT. Accounts of the procedure by hostile critics and by some patients who have experienced it suggest a treatment approach whereby minds are blown apart, memories erased, and feelings blunted by a procedure more closely resembling an amateur mechanic kicking his defective car than a scientifically validated medical treatment. First-hand accounts tell of bodies writhing, people whimpering, and limbs thrashing uncontrollably, and there is a firm body of opinion that testifies to the irreversible damage to the brain itself said to occur in patients who have undergone hundreds of shock treatments.