Consent and Psychiatry: Problematizing the Problematic 

Bonnie Burstow, PhD
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It is rare to get involved in a dialogue over psychiatry without sooner or later someone defending the use of such “treatments” as ECT “as long as they are consented to,” with the term “informed consent” periodically employed. Herein lies the context for this piece. The issue that I want to probe, to be clear, is not whether force should be used—for of course it shouldn’t—but the thorny issue of consent itself—what exactly constitutes consent and what other issues besides consent are critical to factor in when considering what it is and is not legitimate for a “medical” professional to offer.

Let me begin by suggesting that the standard framing of such issues is conceptually impoverished. Nor is the problem limited to the psychiatric arena. It is part and parcel of the dominant liberal, rationalist, individualistic notion of choice generally—which has little do with how “choice” concretely plays out in the world. The point is, despite the image that we all have of an independent person scrupulously sifting through information and carefully coming to the best position, even calmly made choices are seldom arrived at this way. Our choices and our thoughts about what is possible and best are increasingly managed by institutions, prepackaged by forces and processes outside of our view. While of course it is important to keep others in mind, we can be under considerable pressure from family or friends. And others beyond our ken have a frightening degree of “interest” in what we “decide”. Moreover, oftentimes we find ourselves forced to jump in one direction or another at moments so charged that we can barely breathe. Nowhere is this more obvious than with psychiatry.

We are at a strange moment in history. On one hand psychiatry places little value on the rights of others and is only too willing to run roughshod over them. Reinforcing this infringement way more than actually constraining it, we have a rights apparatus managed by the state which creates but the illusion of safeguarding rights—consent primarily (see Burstow, 2014). In the process of defending rights—in itself absolutely vital—meanwhile, so many of psychiatry’s critics themselves slip into acting as if consent were the only value of significance, and in the process invest themselves in this liberal conceptualization.

The issue “in a nutshell”? It is commonplace for otherwise critical thinkers to take the position that as long as an individual “consents” to something called “a treatment,” then by definition it is more or less unproblematic for a separate individual called “a doctor” to administer that treatment or an institution called “medical” to include it in its repertoire. Nor is it deemed relevant that the procedure being offered has no medical validity, exists only because it in the interests of an industry, and beyond that, that it does profound damage—electroshock, for example (for literature demonstrating the lack of validity and the harm caused by ECT, see for instance, Breggin, 2007 and 1991). In some formulations (and admittedly not others) nor is it deemed significant who said what to a person just before she consented or what is likely to befall her afterward. What such a position does in essence is to at once hollow out and fetishize consent. It is as if we had substituted law for ethics and the technical for the meaningful. We have likewise conflated two very separate issues. While no one should be subjected to a “treatment” without consent, the giving of consent does not in and of itself make a “treatment” acceptable.

That noted, some questions to reflect on: If a way of being is not a “medical issue,” what happens when we call it medical? Irrespective of whether or not a “patient” consents, does a doctor have a right to offer an intervention as if it were medical when it is not? Or is it enough that his/her fellow doctors keep talking as if it were medical? Is it acceptable for what is not medical to be taken up as such, promoted, and popularized by a putative branch of  medicine? Does a doctor have a right to offer what substantially harms—and does little else? When a figure as esteemed in our society as a doctor offers a “bogus” product, is that the moral equivalent of a businessman offering it? Who benefits and who loses from that happening? Has anyone the inherent right to brain-damage another? If brain-damaging is not okay on the face of it, does “the recipient” signing on the dotted line make it okay? Is informed consent sufficient? When is “informed consent” not “informed”? Should the reason why one consents have a bearing? Or are reasons irrelevant? Should the context in which one consents have a bearing? Or are contexts irrelevant? Are we responsible only for what we force on others? Or are we also responsible for what we introduce, make available, recommend, offer?

As help in pondering such questions, correspondingly, I would introduce the following testimony by an ECT survivor (now deceased) named Chris:

I would like to speak briefly about electroshock and informed consent. Although they are inextricably linked, I will address them separately . . . I was hospitalized twice. I received ECT in both hospitalizations. The first hospitalization . . . was two courses of treatment . . . The second time I received one course of treatment . . . I was never given any information about potential risks, let alone any reliable information about the potential risks . . . What I was exposed to was the usual psychiatric propaganda. The sort of stuff you . . . hear in the media frequently. The idea that ECT saves lives. [That] ECT is now safe and effective. Is not damaging . . . is now safe and modern. It is as though beating someone with a plastic stick is much an improvement [over] the old wooden stick. I was shown a short video in the hospital. The video actually showed the person going through a course of being shocked . . . The video did not show the person awakening in the recovery room alone and disoriented . . . The very obvious and important thing is that blunt force trauma to the brain is not healing. Blunt force trauma to the brain is damaging . . . Finally on the topic of consent, I would like to say very clearly that when you are in a state of complete terror, absolute despair, and utter isolation . . . when you are in such great pain that suicide seems the only reasonable way to escape that pain, you cannot be said to give consent. (http://coalitionagainstpsychiatricassault.wordpress.com/articles/personal-narratives)

Implicit in this testimony is the position that giving “informed” consent to ECT is close to impossible for the “information” given is a “party-line” generated by the industry. More particularly, not only are key elements characteristically missing (e.g., that it damages the brain) but it is factually inaccurate and egregiously misleading. The same generalization, I would suggest, can be made about consent in psychiatry generally. I would quote in this regard from a comment by Mead (2014):

I for one consented to take the drugs because I was told all sorts of “facts” about biological illnesses, correction of chemical imbalance, “unmasking” etc. I was told that the drugs were “safe” and “effective” “medicine” and was rarely told about risks, particularly of permanent damage . . . The fact remains that I willingly embraced psychiatry because I believed it was the only rational choice — in essence, not a choice at all.

Of course one answer to the dilemma of “inadequate information” and egregious “misinformation” is that those of us with the knowledge and “fire in the belly” create and disseminate accurate information—and many are doing just that. As long as the current system prevails, it is a mistake, however, to think what information we provide will be afforded the same credibility as the misinformation churned out by the system, or indeed will even be seen by the average person confronted with such a “choice.”

What implication ought these and related conundrums hold for critics? The evolution of Dr. Peter Breggin’s position is significant in this regard. When I first started organizing against ECT, already his medical position was that there is a one-to-one ratio between the “therapeutic effect” of ECT and the damage done (see Breggin, 1979). Nonetheless, he did not take an abolitionist position. What he advocated instead is pushing psychiatry to provide better information, just as so many critics do today. This notwithstanding, he eventually shifted to an abolitionist stance on ECT. Why? The degree of damage done and his growing sense that there is little to to be gained by arguing for better information, for psychiatrists are in the business of circulating misinformation among themselves (see Breggin, 1983). By the same token, with misinformation continuing and with ever more proof of the damaging effects of the various “treatments” having materialized, minimally, critics today should stop taking refuge in the concept of consent.

To be clear, I am not denying the possibility of official information materializing that is less egregiously wanting than what is provided now. Indeed, some hospitals’ consent forms are “less inadequate” than others. But the point is that no matter how improved the information became—and let’s be clear, it is going in the opposite direction—it is predictable that neither a consent form nor the verbal information provided would ever go far enough for anything resembling meaningful consent to be enacted. The point is the misinformation is being produced en masse, and it is hardly in the industry’s interest to substantially change.

I am reminded here of the article “A Model Consent Form for Psychiatric Drugs,” by Cohen and Jacobs (Cohen and Jacobs, 2000). Cohen and Jacobs did an admirable job designing a form for psychiatric drug consent, including such information as there is no proof of any mental illness, that if problems arose, the doctor would probably deny that they stemmed from the drug; moreover, they clarified the enormous likelihood of permanent impairment arising and specified the precise nature of the risk for each major class of drug. The “kicker” is, however, almost no “patient” would take a drug were it accompanied with this information, and accordingly, no such consent forms would ever figure in the official repertoire. The point is that psychiatry is built on lies and cover-ups and it has a huge vested interest in continuing both. Nor does the problem of “consent” stop here.

Note, consent must not only be “informed,” it must be freely given. “Free and informed consent” is the precise discourse used. What we are assuming when we say that “free and informed consent” has been given is that the person has not been manipulated in any way and was able to say “no,” with no repercussion arising from this refusal other than those inherent in not taking the procedure in question. We hear these concepts in medicine proper so often that we tend not to question that they are being applied. While such an assumption misses the point in general, when this assumption is extended to psychiatry, what is left out is precisely the nature of the context. The point is that these are inherently coercive institutions, and so even if you got beyond the propaganda, and even if you are technically allowed to refuse, subtle and oftentimes not-so-subtle pressures are almost invariably and inevitably brought to bear. Take the many many women who over the years have been told that they would never get well if they did not comply. Take being chided that you are being something less than a good wife to your husband if you reject “the treatment” (see Wendy’s story in Burstow, 2009). Take the change in tone, the condescending looks with which people are faced. And beyond pressure of this ilk is pressure by family and loved ones who themselves have been socialized to believe in the medical model. Such pressure may be imagined as existing on a continuum, with withdrawal of empathy and support on one end and further along, such phenomena as those experienced by Connie Neil, who accepted ECT out of a well-reasoned fear that if she did not, she might never get her baby back from her mother-in-law (see Burstow, 2006 and Phoenix Rising Collective, 1984). And then there is the pressure that comes from within, from having being told for so often that you are mentally ill that you have internalized the message and in the process become your own enforcer.

The point is that consent in this arena is neither “free” nor “informed.” Nor would amassing an even larger army to oversee the consent process make it so. Ironically, indeed, in the long run all that expanding this sphere of operations would succeed in accomplishing would be augmenting the size and credibility of the institution. While it beyond the scope of this article to cover this dimension, I would add, nor do the prepackaged alternatives with which people are presented even roughly equate with what, in our deeper moments, we actually intend by the word “choice.”

Moreover, putting all this aside—which we can do only hypothetically—even were consent free and informed, and even were we convinced that real choice was involved, the question remains: Is what is happening ethical? In this regard, Chris points out quite correctly that “blunt force trauma to the brain” (inherent in ECT) is not healing and is always damaging. That said, bracket off for a moment the lack of real consent and ask yourself this: Is it ever acceptable for a medical institution to unleash such unmitigated damage on a person? Violence, however cosmeticized? To be clear, I am not suggesting that individuals do not have the right to harm themselves. Indeed we all of us do. However, doctors per se have no right to do harm—never mind to advocate for it or to call it “medicine”.

The issue at hand, I would add, becomes still more confused when people contend that we would be interfering with someone’s right to choose by eliminating a treatment. Treatments in “real medicine” are discarded all the time as a result of an assessment of the harm caused. If it is valid as opposed to an interference with personal liberty to stop offering a  treatment because of the enormity of the harm caused when the treatment is actually medical, how much clearer this issue should be when “the treatment” is not medical. Nor is okay to pass off the non-medical as medical, regardless. Bottom line: doctors should not be in the business of introducing bogus treatments and passing them off as medical. It is likewise confused, I would add, to defend such abuse on the grounds that people need choices.

Still other dimensions come to light in Chris’s testimony—some transparently present, some lurking just beneath the surface. He states, “I would like to say very clearly that when you are in a state of complete terror, absolute despair, and utter isolation . . . when you are in such great pain that suicide seems the only reasonable way to escape that pain, you cannot be said to give consent.” In essence, what Chris is telling us is that he was so terrified and so alone he would have agreed to anything. Comments like this, minimally, should give us pause. As we are all painfully aware, being in such a horrible state that one would hazard anything is hardly uncommon for people in “psychiatric institutions” and/or in crisis. But does that mean that “anything” is fair game for a psychiatrist or anyone else to “offer”? Or rather, as Chris suggests, should this very vulnerability put a greater onus on others to take care in what they offer?

Chris himself states very clearly that agreement under conditions such as this cannot be called “consent.” Finally, he hints at something that I will only briefly allude to here for it is not central to my argument, albeit it is a dimension that we forget to our peril —that accepting such a treatment may be part of a suicidal wish, born precisely out of agony and despair. Again something to bear in mind.

At the very end of his testimony, Chris makes one final point. To whit:

Support and compassion do not cause brain damage. And as far as I know, no one has ever died from oversleeping.

If Chris’s main point is that consent to psychiatric “treatment” is inherently compromised, his secondary point is that it is unacceptable for a doctor to perpetrate harm. This is so, I would suggest, irrespective of consent. I would remind readers here of the ancient Greek medical principle “primum non nocere”—first do not harm. Also, the Hippocratic Oath, which obliges the physician to use medicine to approach disease and in the process “to do no harm” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primum_non_nocere). How is it that we have so strayed from the basis of the profession that we are defending the right of doctors to approach non-disease as if it were disease and to do so in a way that harms? How is it that we are conflating individual choice with what “medical practitioners” should or should not be providing?

Which brings us back to where we began.

To sum up, our prevailing conceptualizations of choice are out of keeping with our experiences as human beings. With regard to psychiatry more particularly, we have fetishized consent to such an extent that we have lost sight of ethics in a more expansive sense and the nature of consent per se. Moreover, we have trivialized hegemony and the fact of institutional rule. The point is, a liberal and individualistic notion of consent is wanting at the best of times. Beyond that, it is seriously at odds with the truth about psychiatry. When it comes to psychiatry, typically, consent is not even close to informed, is not even close to “free.” Additionally, what is far more basic, “doctors” should not be offering bogus medical “treatments, nor interventions that essentially harm—and yet such is the nature of psychiatric “choice.”

(for research, articles, and interview excerpts on these and related topics, see  http://bizomadness.blogspot.ca or follow author on twitter @BizOMadness)

References

Breggin, P. (1979). Electroshock: Its brain-disabling effects. New York: Springer.

Breggin, P. (1983). ECT ban controversy (www.breggin.com/ECT/ECTBanControversy.pdf).

Breggin, P. (1991). Electroshock: Scientific, ethical, and political issues. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine, 11, 5-40.

Breggin, P. (2007). ECT damages the brain. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 9, 83 ff.

Burstow, B. (2006). Electroshock as a form of violence against women. Violence Against Women, 12, 372-392.

Burstow, B. (2009). Electroshock: The gentleman’s way to batter women. Domestic Violence Report, 1 ff.

Burstow, B. (2014). The Consent and Capacity Board: Justice enacted (http://www.bizomadness.blogspot.ca/2014/07/as-researcher-investigating-psychiatry.html).

Cohen, D. and Jacobs, D. (2000). A model consent form for psychiatric drugs (http://laingsociety.org/colloquia/polofdiagnosis/modelconsent.htm).

Mead, E. (2014). Comment. https://www.madinamerica.com/2014/07/attrition-model-psychiatry-abolition/#comment-46145.

Phoenix Rising Collective (Ed.) (1984). Testimony on electroshock. Phoenix Rising 4 (3&4), 16A-22A.

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62 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, Bonnie. Informed consent entails two separate concepts, of course. “Freely given” is implied in the second.

    Clearly, psychiatry is not going to be voluntarily forthcoming with information about the risk/benefit ratio of ECT and there is a huge need to get further information out to the public. Beyond that, we could lobby for legislation that insists individual doctors provide such information.

    Consent, however, is far more problematic. Not just for ECT, but for all psychiatric treatments, I would like to see an advocate made available to all patients facing forced treatment or the more insidious, grey area of coerced treatment. Can’t stress enough that such an advocate would be chosen by the patient and be immediately available, free of charge.

    Of course, it’s not just the routine lack of informed consent, though, that you and others object to. It’s the notion of someone choosing a course of action that you would not. I would suggest that this is similar oppression to what psychiatry practices: “We know better than you do what’s good for you so what you think really doesn’t matter.”

    There are many medical procedures that carry little or no benefit yet substantial risk so ECT isn’t unique. Unfortunately, what works against Breggin’s position is that ECT does often give short-term improvement measured subjectively. Now, for most of us, that very brief relief is not nearly worth the brain damage that accompanies it. For others, though, it is and that’s a choice that needs to be respected. The only issue is whether that choice is truly informed and truly free.

  2. Informed consent as practiced at CAMH in 2002: My son fell into a profound existential funk and stopped eating because he thought the world was coming to an end. He was absolutely correct on that point as he was no longer able to continue as a university student and his family lived a continent away and couldn’t visit him regularly. The doctor sent me a message that said that if he didn’t snap out of it soon, he would receive electroshock. What did we know about ECT? Were they planning to ask us (we would have consented to anything at that point being the naifs we were). The message said nothing about asking my son if it was okay. As it was, a visit from the college chaplain was enough to get him over the depression. What a radical thought – compassionate, human contact as an alternative to running an electric current through your brain.

      • Agreed, John. The idea of ECT used as a last resort is not how it is practiced. My son had been put on his first drug a month before this latest development. Obviously, starving yourself because you think the world is going to end should be taken seriously, but it was ludicrous because the shrink suggested that he discuss his existential concerns with someone else, like the college chaplain. I mean, really, should the shrink have been able to exercise the same philosophical muscle of his brain that the chaplain did? I guess it only confirms that psychiatrists don’t read the great thinkers and philosophers. Their patients do.

  3. Bonnie,

    I am just thrilled that we have gained such an honest, ethical, intelligent “antipsychiatrist” like you at MIA. This is a superb article that pulls no punches about all the fraud, abuses and huge harm done by psychiatry in the guise of “mental health” and “treatment.” Your other articles on MIA and your web site are excellent too.

    I’m also delighted to meet the “smart cookie” who came up with this fantastic title about the old boy network in general and psychiatry in particular in their “treatment” of women:

    Burstow, B. (2009). Electroshock: The gentleman’s way to batter women. Domestic Violence
    Report, 1 ff.

    Brilliant!! It’s so nice to meet the very smart lady who came up with that gem that says it all about our misogynist world!!

    I’m very grateful for Rob Wipond introducing you and your antipsychiatry web site to us at MIA though your name and works are familiar to me as another “old timer” all too familiar to those of us who have been researching the biopsychiatry/Big Pharma cartel for decades when forced because our loved ones were put at risk in the 1990’s. I am also very thankful for Dr. Peter Breggin exposing this fraud in such works as Toxic Psychiatry and Your Drug May Be Your Problem, 2nd ed. in the 1990’s when the vast majority in what I now call “the mental death profession” sold out to Big Pharma while voting in their bogus DSM stigmas to push the latest lethal drugs on patent as well as electrical and surgical lobotomies. I am very glad that his works helped you to see through this fascist agenda and that you give him the credit he so greatly deserves for standing alone and unsupported and withstanding the many attacks he endured for fighting against ECT, lobotomy, “the war against children of color,” and so many other atrocities committed by the horrific psychiatry/DSM assault on humanity. He certainly deserves to be called the “conscience of psychiatry” and continues this battle to this day in his many books, web sites, numerous media articles and appearances in the media and before Congress. I am very glad that his works helped you to see through this fascist agenda and that you give him the credit he so greatly deserves. I am glad to see that he has lived to be totally validated for taking the brave stand that he did that helped so many people during this crisis of conscience and humanity.

    Of course, all too many politicians have been enriched with generous campaign and other “contributions” by Big Pharma by selling out to biopsychiatry with its revolving door with government and Big Pharma, so it is little wonder that they have colluded in creating the “therapeutic state.”

    To argue that electroshock should be an available choice is like saying bloodletting with leeches should still be a valid medical choice as well. Plus, even if somebody like Kitty Dukakis wants to fry her brain to a zombie state, that doesn’t mean she should be allowed to put others at equal risk. Have you seen/read the highly regarded book, Doctors of Deception by a highly educated woman who became a victim of ECT herself? The fact that Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Wolf all killed themselves after being manipulated/forced to have ECT because they lost their memories and ability to write/create says it all.

    What is most vile is that the KOL’s of psychiatry ensured that no social or environmental stressors such as rape, abuse, bullying, mobbing, oppression, injustice, racism, sexism, growing inequality, poverty or other nasty isms would be considered in their junk science DSM to blame the victims of their corporate and other old boy network cronies to prey on them with impunity with special focus on women and children in typical cowardly fashion. Robert Spitzer, the narcissist editor of DSM III, admitted that if such causes of their junk science DSM stigmas were considered, the whole house of cards would fall apart. Fortunately, Dr. Thomas Insel, Head of the NIMH has been forced to admit that the DSM is like a dictionary while none of its stigmas like the latest fad fraud bipolar have a shred of validity, evidence, science or anything medical behind them. Of course, anyone doing any research has been all too well aware of that for decades.

    I look forward to reading more of your “take no prisoners” approach when calling a spade a spade when exposing biopsychiatry in your future articles.

  4. This is a wonderful article for so many reasons Dr Burstow.

    I can’t help but wonder if there has been a typographical error somewhere in history, and that the term should be spelled conscent.

    Con –

    verb
    1. persuade (someone) to do or believe something by lying to them.

    noun
    1. an instance of deceiving or tricking someone.

    Scent –

    noun
    1. a distinctive smell.
    2. a trail indicated by the characteristic smell of an animal and perceptible to hounds or other animals.

    Certainly there is an element of the con about the whole process, and whilst a scent is usually associated with pleasantness, there is something about this notion of consent in psychiatry that stinks.

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

  5. Thank you for the article! The issue of informed consent also comes down to a question of values, I think. There seems to be something that feels very much like excuse making to take an argument that goes something like, “well the person wanted it, so my hands were tied.” Thankfully, I’m not in a position to “prescribe” treatments of these sorts. But if I was, and a person came to me saying that the were absolutely certain they wanted ECT, I would not participate in them doing it, anymore than I would assist someone in having a lobotomy. It’s true that the individual can continue their attempts to receive certain “treatment,” but I don’t have to support it or be involved in it.

    The other serious piece of this discussion is the matter of what actually constitutes “informed” consent. I personally suspect that informed consent is almost never obtained for nearly anything aside from possibly the most simple voluntary outpatient counseling. I believe that the system too frequently treats consent as a political game in which full, comprehensive information about “treatments” being proposed are presented with the complete description of possible benefits and risks, a review of the evidence – if any – about such a “treatment” and a reminder to the individual of their full range of rights, including the right to decline without reprisal, the right to withdraw consent at any given time, among others.

    I believe there are two major biases that give “professionals” a much greater sense of freedom to rationalize and justify the lack of truly informed consent. The first is the nature of the dominant medical model that establishes a framework of “doctor” to “sick person” with all the paternalistic authority contained therein. The second, somewhat less discussed, is the issue of class. Poor people are seen as “other” in this society. A rich person will likely have infinitely more say, more information, and more consent in his or her own care than a poor person ever will.

    The state mental health system, wrapped up in medicaid and medicare, and the disability system, which grants benefits at at or below the poverty line, overwhelmingly interacts with the economically marginalized. A person’s intellect, character, and basic status as a person are all seen completely differently as a torrent of cultural biases and bigotry run completely unchecked. “Those” people don’t know what’s best for them. But “we” do. So if we shade the truth a little bit, or gloss over the details, or talk of “evidence” that doesn’t really exist, that’s all OK because those “other” people really just need to do what we want and stay out of the way of the “real” people in the world.

    • “Patients,” do not usually get informed consent in psychiatry, even when they are voluntary patients, they get high pressure sales tactics. It is worse if you have been detained under the mental health act as people then get frightened they will be forced to take these drugs if they decline to take them.

      A friend, who is suffering several bad effects of Quetiapine, was told he needs these drugs by his psychiatrist when he told them about the bad effects and asked for a reduction. The psychiatrist noted that he objected to every drug he has been on, and he has been on quite a few, being a long time “Patient,” (in his case, survivor of psychiatry seems a more accurate description) and he felt harmed by every one of these drugs. Yet the psychiatrist, while noting this, seemed to minimize the damage and my friends desire to reduce the dose. So it becomes the patients fault for refusing the drugs, not the psychiatrists job to provide accurate information so the patient can make and informed decision.

      Recently we have been discussing what was happening before he had his breakdowns. Guess what, every time appalling things were happening in his life and guess what, the services ignored them every time. And guess what, being on the drugs or not being on the drugs made no difference as to whether he had a breakdown. So after decades of psychiatric indoctrination he admitted that maybe the breakdowns were to do what was happening in his life and perhaps he did not have a serious mental illness (bipolar in his case).

      So I bought him a pill cutter – by the look on his face it was the best present he’d had in years.

  6. Dr. Burstow, thank you for speaking the truth. I wholeheartedly agree, it is morally and ethically wrong for the medical community, as a whole still, to be advocating belief in “disorders” that have no scientific validity. And it is morally and ethically wrong for doctors, who’ve promised to “first and foremost, do no harm” to even be offering “treatments” that are not proven to be effective, and whose true long run harms are supposedly yet to even be researched properly.

  7. Informed consent is usually misinformed or dis-informed consent. People are consenting because they are not being told the truth. How many people would consent to a procedure that caused, often and usually, brain damage? How many people would consent to take drugs that they were told are going to destroy their looks and their physical health? Not many I’d warrant. They are being told that ECT is safe. Ditto psych drugs. They are being told out and out lies. Great article, Bonnie. It’s terrific to have you posting on Mad In America.

  8. A cerebral and beautifully written article.
    I simply cannot comprehend how, after 50 years of anecdotal and scientific evidence revealing that this barbaric “procedure” is brain disabling closed head injury that destroys lives and families, it is allowed to continue. We know athletes are concerned about TBI’s resulting from multiple head concussions causing brain damage, resulting in memory loss, rage, anxiety, depression, and dementia, but “doctors” will administer 3 head injuries a week for a month and not question the damage they are inflicting?? If 50 years of protests, marches, conferences, survivor testimonies, hundreds of scientific and academic papers, protests from neurologists, and individuals like Peter Breggin have accomplished nothing, what is the point?? The public relations propaganda, the rebranding of the “kinder, gentler, safer” ECT continue to draw in victims. If a few dozen women are injured by “vaginal mesh bladder implants”, the product is banned, the procedure halted. The same is true of other consumer products that cause injury. Why not ECT??
    Would multiple rounds of lawsuits keeping hospitals tied up in litigation work?? Probably not, since the injured victims rarely have the finances or the focus to pursue this avenue of recourse. They additionally suffer from trauma that would be exacerbated by reliving their experience in court. If there has been a recent ruling of about 29 billion dollars in favor of a man who died from lung cancer because the cigarette companies were culpable, why cannot multiple lawsuits be launched on behalf of the victims of electrical lobotomy??
    The only other option seems to be stealth terrorism that seeks to destroy or disable the machines themselves and the factories that produce them, while avoiding injury to anyone. Now here is a job for Jack from 24, minus the guns and violence.

  9. Thank you Bonnie ,analysis at this level is like music to my ears. Isn’t it amazing that the “educated” psychiatric complex behavioral control freaks are the real people whose criminal behavior needs to be eliminated and yet they have immunity.
    Maybe a modern day Madame Defarge that is not fictional wielding an electric shock machine and a mixed bottle of neuroleptics instead of a guillotine determined to hunt down every last bogus psychiatrist and nurse rachet and pharma executive and collaborating government official to give each one a dose of their own medicine as needed is what it will take to turn the nitemare around. The attack on the people that is going on is the same as an accelerating time released war and we are the frogs in the pot.

  10. As far as science is concerned here’s a great quote I found.
    “There is no proof. There are no authorities whatever no President, Academy Court Of Law, Congress Or Senate on this earth has the knowledge or power to decide what will be the knowledge of tomorrow.”
    Wilhelm Reich (a man whose discoveries and ideas are worth investigating.

  11. so glad to finally have an explicitly and dedicatedly FEMINIST WOMAN on MIA. Keep spreading the good word! I wish this article had more explicitly linked the feminist work on consent in sexual situations to the issue of consent in psychiatry, but it is still a great article.
    THANK YOU!!

  12. As I stated, after considering all the time and energy expended on a variety of approaches that have failed to end this human rights issue involving abuse and documented permanent injury and disability, it is essential that another approach or approaches be implemented. Are there passionate lawyers willing to work pro bono for a righteous cause? The only way to stop the ghouls administering this procedure and the hospitals providing it and the governments sanctioning it, is to launch a flurry of lawsuits on behalf of the injured and walking wounded. Peter Breggin’s testimony was central to Peggy Salters’ award of $600000+ for the damages she incurred as a result of ECT. And, yes, that was in the United States, where lawsuits are more common, but it is not to late to begin. So, we have the experts quite willing and able to testify, lawyers whose fees could be covered by fundraising or donations from people injured by this “modality” or human rights advocates with cash or access to wealthy individuals looking for a cause who are appalled and indignant at the egregious harm that continues to be done under the guise of a medical “procedure”. Tie up the courts, launch multiple suits against doctors, hospitals, and the governments of every province in this country. Make taxpayers aware that they are paying for brain damaging procedures sanctioned by their government which is failing to protect its citizens. Let newspapers publicize the survivor testimonies and bring the latest scientific research to the public, in the process inspiring revulsion and absolute indignation that those who pledge to “first do no harm” are injuring thousands of unsuspecting victims under cover of lies and disinformation.
    Any lawyers out there with an insight on how well this might actually work?

  13. “defending the use of such “treatments” as ECT “as long as they are consented to,” with the term “informed consent” ”
    Sure, we can also demand that doctors should be allowed to administer blows with a baseball bat to the head if someone consents to it. Or giving someone cyanide or snake oil.
    There should be a difference between what people are allowed to do to themselves (which I believe should be up to an individual) and what is being sold as medical treatment and prescribed or performed by medical professionals.
    Interestingly, psychiatry will administer ECT on you against our will but if you want to cut yourself then they’re going to lock you up and take away your civil rights.