On May 16, 2015, protests against electroconvulsive therapy or ECT will take place around the world. To support this educational campaign, I am releasing my newest Simple Truths about Psychiatry video which is titled “Shock Treatment is Trauma.”
Ted Chabasinski, an attorney, is an organizer of the protest. Ted recently talked about his personal experiences and the upcoming protests on my radio show, “The Dr. Peter Breggin Hour.” We agreed that money and power is not the only motivation of shock doctors. Many are taking out their violent impulses on their helpless victims.
Ted received 20 shock treatments as a six-year-old at the hands of child psychiatrist Loretta Bender at New York City’s infamous Bellevue. Bender, who boasted about shocking more than 200 children, remains beloved among biological psychiatrists and was cited in a positive fashion in psychiatrist David Healy’s recent paean to shock treatment. In his book, Shock Treatment, Healy uses Bender as a positive example of ECT. He might as well have been describing exactly how Bender treated 6-year-old Ted Chabasinski when he explains approvingly that she “had administered daily treatments to ninety-eight children ages four to eleven for a typical course of about twenty treatment” (p. 137). As Healy states, daily ECT is “intensive ECT,” an approach no longer accepted, except by Healy and a very few other ECT extremists, because it is known to cause severe neurological dilapidation.
Among those of us opposed to brain-damaging therapies, Bender the “scientific” child abuser is to psychiatry as Mengele the “scientific” child abuser was to Nazi extermination camps. Both are extreme examples of violence unleashed on helpless incarcerated children in the name of medical research.
What’s wrong with shock treatment? How does it work? It’s not as mysterious as the advocates make out. Shock works by passing an electric current through one or both frontal lobes of the brain, producing an electrical lobotomy. The electricity also passes through the memory centers of the temporal lobe, causing additional devastation. Finally, the current passes throughout the brain and that, along with the severe seizures that result, causes widespread brain dysfunction and damage. Some patients initially become euphoric from the damage, whereupon the shock doctor notes approvingly, “mood elevated.” All patients eventually become apathetic and indifferent, and unable to resist, whereupon the doctor notes with finality about the outcome, “no longer complaining.”
My wife Ginger and I have spent innumerable hours creating a free website about shock treatment: www.ECTresources.org. It offers a simple introductory statement and a color brochure for widespread distribution. It also provides PDFs of more than 100 scientific articles with a search mechanism that quickly links to specific subjects such as “women,” “children,” “elderly,” “brain damage,” “memory loss,” “animal research,” “ineffectiveness,” “suicide,” “ECT machines,” “FDA” and more.
Shock treatment is an abuse and should be rejected by the public and professionals alike. I hope the May 16th protests draw international attention to this assault masquerading as treatment.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.