The Shady World of Shock Treatment

19
1874

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness…” (Isaiah 5:20).

Shock treatment is also called electroconvulsive therapy, ECT, electroshock, or, simply, shock. In the procedure, electricity is passed through the brain in order to create a seizure. In modern times, the person receiving it is under general anesthesia. There is no specific theory that explains why shock treatment would be helpful, and its effects on the brain are not fully understood.

Illustration of a brain made of paper disintigrating

Beginnings Under Fascism

In the late 1700s, the inventor of the term “psychiatry”—German physician Johann Christian Reil—theorized that the mentally ill could be “frightened” or “shocked” back to health by means such as a sudden dunking in cold water or shooting off a cannon behind their backs.

While the treatment changed, the name “shock” stuck. Based on a mistaken assumption of an antagonism between epilepsy and schizophrenia, shock treatment (a convulsion induced by chemical or electrical means) became more commonplace in the first part of the 20th century. Manfred Sakel was the first to try the new method with insulin, followed by Ladislas Meduna with Metrazol. But too many were dying from insulin, and too many complained of pain from Metrazol.

Two Italian physicians, Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini, wanted to try electricity.  Cerletti feared it would be fatal until he learned that pigs shocked prior to slaughter didn’t die of the current. Bini had a way of shocking dogs that didn’t kill them, either, but not without finding widespread brain damage. Nevertheless, Cerletti went ahead with the first human trial.

The year was 1938, Italy was under the control of the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, and mental hospitals were overrun by patients. As Fink put it in his 2009 guide for professionals using shock therapy, “Lacking effective remedies, they permitted many experimental and unsafe interventions.”

Police found a man wandering in a train station and saying strange things, and they brought him to Cerletti and Bini. Bini described what they did with him: “The patient’s…arms are tied… [On the temporoparietal areas] …two rectangular electrodes are placed…1st time 80 volts for 1/4th second. Alternating current for the induction is allowed to flow…The patient immediately presents a tonic spasm [i.e., contraction] of all the muscles of the trunk and limbs…The experiment is repeated with a current of 80 volts for ½ second…The patient…makes us aware that he perceived the current as an unpleasant sensation and does not want to try a third time…After fifteen minutes it is repeated for a third time.” Richard Abrams, M.D. said the man’s words really were, “Not again; it’s murderous.”

A foremost critic of psychiatry, Thomas Szasz, M.D., had this to say about the first shock treatment: “S.E. [the subject] was a complete stranger to Cerletti, whose help he did not seek (and whose intervention he later rejected)… Although sent to the hospital expressly ‘for observation,’ Cerletti flagrantly disobeyed the instructions of the Police Commissioner of Rome: instead of observing S.E., he used him as an experimental subject… Cerletti does not mention having obtained permission for his experiment from anyone.”

Today, the first shock treatment would be condemned as a violation of the Nuremberg Code, which was drawn up after World War II in response to Nazi atrocities and prohibits experimentation on human subjects without their informed consent. Likewise, U.S. law prohibits human experimentation without consent.

Shock Comes to America

Lothar Kalinowsky was among the foremost advocates of shock treatment from its earliest days. He was born in Berlin in 1899, received his M.D. from the University of Berlin in 1922, and worked in Italy under Cerletti before coming to America. Kalinowsky and Paul Hock wrote Shock Treatments and Other Somatic Procedures in Psychiatry in 1946, which described ECT in a favorable light long before anything was known about its long-term effects.

While still in its infancy, shock was already widely used in state hospitals. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH): “[A]s… occurs with new therapies, ECT was used for a variety of disorders, frequently in high doses and for long periods. Many of these efforts proved ineffective, and some even harmful.” Often, according to Peter Breggin, it was used to control “difficult, unruly or uncooperative” patients.

Back then patients weren’t given anesthesia to put them to sleep or a muscle relaxant to prevent their bones from breaking. According to the NIH, fractured vertebrae were common, with up to 40% of patients experiencing “complications” from the procedure.

Even in 1947, the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry concluded, “Abuses in the use of electro-shock are sufficiently widespread and dangerous to justify consideration of a campaign of professional education in the limitations of this technique, and perhaps even to justify instituting certain measures of control.”

The public was given a taste of what the shock treatment of the day was like in the 1975 Milos Forman film (based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

A statue of Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Photo courtesy of Michael Sturman)

In truth, according to Jonathan Sadowsky (author of a recent textbook on the long controversy over shock therapy), “[T]here was nothing that happened  [in the film] that could not have happened…The remote physicians, vengeful staff, and especially the vengeful use of ECT was all completely plausible.”

And that was hardly the end of it. As Jean Dietz wrote for The Boston Globe in 1972, “[E]lectroconvulsive therapy has had no public surveillance and practically no scientific scrutiny… [T]here are no regulations at all about how much voltage may be used, how often treatments may be given, age of patients, or whether the treatment is appropriate to diagnostic findings…[Shock Doctors] use the treatment indiscriminately without appropriate diagnosis or follow up care as long as the patient or insurance company pays.”

Dietz wrote that fifty years ago. But it’s doubtful much has changed. Now, all that most states require is “informed consent.” But what Shock Doctors tell their patients is up to them. Many use the consent form in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) The Practice of Electroconvulsive Therapy, 2nd Ed. While it states that long-term memory loss following ECT has been reported, it doesn’t indicate it’s anything to be concerned about. The worst part is most people believe whatever their shock doctors tell them.

Lies, Lies, Lies

Shock took a major hit with the introduction of new tranquilizers and antidepressants in the 1950s. It also had an ugly reputation from the antipsychiatry movement, the media, and Cuckoo’s Nest.

For shock doctors and device manufacturers (collectively, “the industry”), it meant so much money down the drain and an uncertain future. But what could they do? One of shock’s greatest problems was that so many people believed it caused brain damage and long-term impairment. Suppose the industry did a large scale, scientific study of long-term memory deficits following ECT, and it turned out their critics were right? From a purely selfish business point-of-view, why take the risk? As it turned out, the industry chose instead to “sell” shock to the public with the help of the APA.

And what did they have to “sell”?

There were the anesthesia and muscle relaxant. Before, as soon as the current was turned on, patients went into major convulsions which could break bones. But the muscle relaxant paralyzed their muscles and prevented them from breaking. And the anesthesia kept them from experiencing terror when the muscle relaxant stopped them from breathing.

It’s common knowledge that an electric current strong enough to produce a convulsion would kill brain cells. In a 2009 book, Linda Andre revealed that while the industry claimed the new procedure used “less electricity,” anesthesia increased the current needed to produce a convulsion. They claimed brief pulse technology also used “less electricity.” Yet, it used more, because there was an increased number of pulses per second and the current was applied for longer. Then they claimed unilateral electrode placement (i.e., both electrodes on the same side) “reduced current”. At the same time, though, treatment effectiveness was reduced and more current required to produce a convulsion.

Another false claim was that suicide risk is a “must” reason for ECT. But after reviewing studies on shock and suicide, Peter Breggin found that none supported the industry’s claim that shock reduces suicide risk in any diagnostic group. More recently, Munk-Olson in 2007 and Peltzman et al. in 2020 failed to show that ECT reduced suicide risk.

The top prize, though, goes to the APA for its claim in 2001’s The Practice of Electroconvulsive Therapy that there is “no evidence for brain damage” from ECT. This flies in the face of a host of animal, autopsy, and other studies and an untold number of patient complaints.

Likewise, a recent lawsuit points in a different direction from the APA. Somatics, a major manufacturer of shock devices, settled with the plaintiffs in Jose Riera v. Somatics, who alleged brain injury and impairment due to their shock devices. Moreover, Somatics issued a warning that their devices can “cause permanent brain damage.” The other major manufacturer of shock devices, Mecta Corp. had to file for bankruptcy when it was denied insurance after so many lawsuits were filed against it.

Count the Victims!

Before the first shock treatment was given, lobotomy was performed by Egas Moniz. Large fiber tracks of the brain were cut, not knowing what would happen. It took years before the medical establishment admitted how destructive lobotomy could be. The damage from ECT is frequently located in the frontal and temporal lobes, but as with lobotomy, there is no way of knowing beforehand what the specific damage will be from ECT—something like Russian Roulette!

How many do have serious problems after receiving ECT?

Rose et al. (2003) searched the published literature to find how shock patients viewed their experiences in a study commissioned by the UK National Health Service. Long-term memory loss was reported by at least a third. Estimates ranged from a low of 12% to a high of 55%.

The problem with self-report studies, though, is they can be misleading. Patients may be unaware of their own deficiencies or make up things. Responses to follow-up can depend on whether it’s done by someone from a treatment facility or outside. Those who choose to participate may be different from those who don’t.

Moreover, as Sackeim writes, “Empirical information about ECT’s long-term effects derives mainly from small sample studies conducted in research settings with follow-up intervals frequently limited to two months or less. …[T]hese studies could not adequately assess the severity and persistence of long-term deficits.”

John Read, Irving Kirsch, and Laura McGrath conducted a meta-analysis of the randomized controlled trials of ECT vs. sham ECT (i.e., the anesthesia without electricity) in 2019. Their paper illustrates the pitfalls of small sample research and the lack of evidence for ECT. They found eleven relevant studies and five meta-studies in the literature, but none since 1985. ECT subjects improved more than sham in four, no difference was found in five, and investigators expressed different opinions on the outcome in two. Analysis of the methodologies indicated that all studies were too small and too poorly done to reach any conclusions.

Instead of the many problems with self-report and small sample studies, why not a large, single, scientific study using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and neuropsychological testing? “MRI images are clearer and more precise than other forms of diagnostic imaging… Because an MRI provides clear pictures of soft tissues, it’s a reliable tool for diagnosing brain conditions” (What to Expect in an MRI…, undated). And neuropsychological testing can determine the degree of impairment in memory, attention, and many other areas. If done many months or years after ECT, the study could provide a good estimate of how many suffer brain damage and long-term impairment.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) would be a logical source of funding for such a study. But some on the Appropriations’ Committee belong to the APA, a strong supporter of ECT. And, so far, nothing doing. That means—at least for now—nobody knows how many do experience long-term difficulties. This means that the risk of undergoing ECT is still unknown.

Where Are the Cops?

The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of prescription medications and medical devices. Shock devices first entered the US market in 1940. But it wasn’t until 1976 when Congress passed the Safe Medical Devices Amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that they came under the authority of the FDA.

The Amendment also established a system for determining the risk of medical devices.  A Class III device is one at the highest level of risk.

ECT devices were placed in Class III by the FDA in 1976. But because of several exceptions, the FDA had limited control over them for many years. To provide the FDA with greater authority to regulate medical devices, Congress passed the Safe Medical Devices Act of 1990, which required the FDA to obtain Premarket Approval (PMA) for all Class III medical devices (which would mean that the device could demonstrate safety and efficacy) or reclassify them to a lower level of risk.

Rather than obtaining PMA, the FDA chose to reclassify shock devices to a lower level of risk. To do so, it had to issue an administrative order based on scientific evidence. It also had to hold a meeting of its Neurological Devices Advisory Subcommittee to review the evidence. It didn’t start making preparation for a meeting, however, until nineteen years after the Safe Medical Devices Act was passed. By that time, ECT devices had been under the FDA’s authority for over 30 years and had never undergone the same rigorous, scientific testing as most vaccines, pharmaceuticals, or other medical devices. A study of shock devices by the same high standards was long overdue. Yet, the FDA, given its choices, decided to rely largely on smaller studies already published in the literature

When the Neurological Advisory Subcommittee met in January 2011, no consensus was reached on the reclassification of ECT devices for Depression (Unipolar and Bipolar) and Catatonia—those diagnoses where ECT was most often used. According to The New York Times, Committee members voting in favor of reclassification were largely those who did ECT themselves, or referred patients for ECT, and had a financial stake in the outcome. In contrast, according to The Washington Post, committee chairman Dr. Thomas Brott, a professor of neurosciences at the Mayo Clinic, as well as others, wanted shock devices proven safe and effective before lowering the risk.

Nonetheless, the FDA went ahead and issued a Final Order for the reclassification of ECT devices to Class II, effective December 26, 2018. A class II device requires “special controls” without oversight by the FDA, such as following the instructions in the device manual. The reclassification applied only to those with Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Catatonia who were 13 years or older and required an urgent response and/or were nonresponsive to prior treatment. Schizophrenia and all other diagnoses remained in Class III and, henceforth, required PMA.

The FDA stated in the Final Order it had reviewed over 400 new studies and articles and reassessed those already reviewed previously by its Advisory Committee. It also considered observational studies, case reports, and retrospective chart reviews, which are of dubious scientific value. It said new studies since 2011 were to be found in the public docket, but no link was found. Nor did they reveal how their decision was made beyond claiming it was based on “a totality of the evidence.”

The New York Times reported that Somatics and Mechta Corp., the two companies selling shock devices, told the FDA that they could not afford the large study needed to obtain PMA. And the FDA’s reclassification decision was made partly to ensure the companies stayed in business and shock devices continued to be sold.

But the risk of undergoing shock treatment will remain until shock devices are held to the same high standards as vaccines, prescription drugs, and other medical devices. The FDA warned itself: “…The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

“Unfortunately, Psychiatry shows not the slightest inclination to rein in its compulsion to damage the brains of its patients in the name of ‘treatment’…ECT will have to be stopped by forces outside the profession including public outrage, court decisions prohibiting its use, and legislation banning it.” –Peter Breggin, Brain Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry

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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.

19 COMMENTS

  1. This shock therapy should not exist, not in any form. And nor should the Transcaranial Magnet.

    These practices have no medical value, and the people doing it carry government issued medical licenses. They should be prosecuted for Crimes Against Humanity in the International Court.

    We must eradicate the entire mental health system:

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2022/04/observation-room/#comment-195987

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2022/04/observation-room/#comment-196026

    Joshua

  2. I’m just starting to realize, 15 years on, the ECT was all part of a plan to shame, silence and discredit me since both the ECT doctor and the psychiatrist who referred me to him, who I’d been seeing for 6 years once a week, who’d been drugging me like crazy for 6 years and when I found out at the end of 6 years that he hadn’t kept any records of all the drugs he had prescribed (a ridiculous amount) I tried reporting him to the APA. I was naive enough to think that they would care that one of their precious wonderful doctors hadn’t followed basic medical protocol. They didn’t care one bit. But the good doctors got wind of the fact that I tried to report him and next thing I knew I’m getting electric shock treatments, I have no idea how many, and the at the end of all that “oh you have borderline personality disorder. That’s why the ECT didn’t work.”. So with severe cognitive impairment and short-term memory loss (brain damage) plus a new criminalizing diagnosis stamped on me, they knew that I would never be able to file a lawsuit or find the right people to report them to. They already had enough info to know that I had no support in my life. No one even noticed that I had brain damage!!! Well just my employer who kept threatening to fire me.
    Disgusting hideous barbarians.

    But responsibility. Yes I am taking responsibility now because we all know that that’s how Psychiatry gets in. Right Psychiatry takes advantage of those who refuse to take responsibility for themselves so now I take responsibility every day because I am reformed and I don’t want to get attacked anymore. I have learned my lesson mad in America!

  3. Thank you for this excellent and much needed exposé, Michael. Yes, I have witnessed up close and personal just how Shady the world of ECT is.. I’m also very thankful for the work of two psychiatrists, one of whom you mentioned in your article and both of whom have written articles on this website on the same issue; Drs. Peter Breggin and Niall “Jock” McLaren.

    My wife and I were well aware of the serious dangers of ECT when our youngest of four children landed back in the psychiatric unit of our local hospital, despite our best efforts to avoid it. She had just turned 18 four months earlier, and she was truly very incapacitated– due largely, we believe, to very ill-advised “treatments” in a previous lengthy, traumatic previous experience at the same hospital. We therefore obtained legal guardianship so that we could assure personalized medical services for her and protect her from the coercive psychiatric practices we’d already witnessed, first with her older sister, then with her. But despite our diligent efforts, they railroaded her through involuntary ECT through an egregious kangaroo court process. Then they forced her onto to an “antipsychotic” that genetic testing flagged as one to be avoided. Both of these coercive “treatments” were traumatic and devastating, and did nothing to restore her thinking, behavior or personal relationships. She was discharged in deplorable condition to the local state psychiatric hospital after over four months. After 16 months of languishing in this setting, we were finally able to extricate her. But it appears too much damage was done. She came out of that almost 2-year hospitalization much more diminished and distorted in her personhood after psychiatry had full control of her for almost two years, and she suffered a tragic and ultimately fatal accident ten months after returning home–directly related to drug-induced OCD that was greatly exacerbated and apparently entrenched by the particular neuroleptic medication she was forced onto after the involuntary ECT.

    My wife and I continue to be heartsick about this whole horrific saga. Our daughter was a bright, healthy, creative, athletic and personable young lady when she experienced a precipitous psychosocial decline at age 15. But at every point where psychiatry “took over” with coercive, draconian “treatments” her condition worsened in every way.

    We are in the process of writing a more detailed account of this whole saga and look forward to sharing it when completed.

  4. I channel ghosts. I don’t like the word channel. It sounds like a doing thing whereas I feel anyone can do it by merely being.

    A spirit of a poet intermittenly visits my meagre existence to provide tips in the art of literary embellishment. It is sincere but we have a laugh. At first I thought I was to jot down only his words. This led to exasperation on my part as he only gave key words and I did not know I was supposed to use those as raw material to make my own thing from them. I would scrutinize the finished work and in puzzlement ask…

    “is this it?”.

    Many poems came. All bemusing. Some even struck me as crazed or ugly. But little by little I began to learn how to get a “feel” for poetry through his poetry. I never saw him. He spoke to me but remained invisible. To this day I am very fond of him. And I believe he of I. It is a working relationship or apprenticeship, probably the best sort of relationship. The first poems were unfoldments of his life I suppose. Cryptic riddles. In his life he knew a fair bit about women given to creative ravings. In the intial batch of verses he streamed into my consciousness was a poem about his late wife Sylvia, also a poet. Here is that poem. Or the keys of it that I was meant to salvage.

    E.C.T

    Horses lie electrocuted by ringed killing murderers who cavort each time they hear a girl cry maximum sorrow filled tears, never numbly looking them in the eye.

    Horses suffer gruelling electric shocks. Millions of volts fed through jolts in slurries of snow, or in raked, frying, fodderless straw slung like kindling between two hot rocks.

    Horses thrash electrified in killing fences, highly fraught.
    Diurnal grimaces in between normal defences get linked up to limiting fixings.

    Either frog marched is the gifted queen, empty of horseless screams, or kept eider down unwilling, diligently drowned, dimly hidden
    in hinged God forsaken howling.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your most tragic story of losing your daughter…It pains me so much that there are countless stories of young bright lives lost to psychiatric abuse… Being a hospital chaplain I hear them a lot, and they are so heart breaking… Talk about man-made evil.

      Hope that writing your memoir would bring you comfort and would empower many to fight that oppressive industry. Thank you for being witness.

  5. The Raid.

    Torrents of Vikings poured over dark blue fields of wheat,
    with hair like hisses of hit iron given water.

    The smell of a covering hand over my mouth hurried me to my feet. There was no pity in those unseeing eyes.
    Swifts could not have been quicker than their indigo blades.

    Their clubs shattered defying prayerful hands to stumps of bloody bone rubbles and made mouths sizzle clots like bees from a hive.

    Fingers hacked fistfuls of murdered priests.
    They Dropped dangles of woven habits like seal stew.

    Rain drummed on slate, arrived too late, mixed bowls of blood in the foot-stepped mud of the orchard.
    Their boots shook rain from hazels, broke sticks like babies’ necks.

    The night they came as vapours, they moved like rolling otters over suspect ripples.
    Their sea-wet sleeves of noise came holding huts open,
    whence they unfolded rustling blood streams
    of the lying poisoned almost healed.

    Oh, turn away, two frightening eyes
    appearing in my sleep!
    You, who took the beloved hostage, his face downcast, crying into padlocked hands.

    The hostage took a hurried last look at the island he had known all his days, before that worrying boat began its voyage
    across the chainmail sea.

    See the huge Viking, that cleaver of limbs, garnet clots spattering his proud impenetrable chest.

    He in his crisscross bindings,
    his fashionable killing garb,
    fancies his chainmail will keep him safe from harm of sea-devils.

    I can put a cross upon his head
    that God will find him and spare him not.
    I put a cross on the beloved’s head that the ocean will cease its gulping hands and lift him carefully like Saint Columba’s bone box.

    Great running giants with beacon heads, tall from eating women’s hearts,
    they lacerate trees, bushes, men,
    forgetting where they stole from last.

    Blood never dries on their frozen cheekbones.
    They terrified children into rags for kissed spears.

    I sketch the Viking’s nose,
    a cutting flint from the sun.
    His wound up lip hair
    like boat nails bursting at our martyrdom.

    May his ear always hear me shouting,
    may he see me tumbling towards him with my gift.

    May the sand of Marnock’s isle ignite him,
    his soul kindle with damnation’s itchy rashes.

    Oh, put his wickedness in the fires he lit.
    I still see him take the beloved
    up into the north facing hatchet-cut boat.

    See the beloved’s sandal lift
    into the lawless hall of many oars. I watch the boat leaving, see it growing small

    on the horizon.

    They smashed my head red-open
    by giving me nothing to do but watch.

    They removed my voice.
    They put a lost voice there for all to see.

    The Vikings’ swung axes made claims out of old men,
    sent them broken like baskets of chickens
    or halved heads of hidden tots.

    Brother Lulach heard how horrible Vikings
    misused a school of protesting boys.

    One novice from the Derry monastery dropped petal-faced with the Saviour’s joy

    while begging for his mother
    to wake him from such slaughter.

    What could be broken got shown whole the moment before it was.

    Viking laughter rattled like shutters in the breeze.

    Viking fingers ripped open mouths, looked inside for hidden beliefs,
    then poured down berries, comforts, swords,
    until the loudest words were pale sweet eyes.

    Chainmail, wrestling to fight, came biting into bruised skin.
    Their armour punctured like teeth through water, beaks of pain,
    devil pins.

    Several Vikings ran after the lighter footed,
    hunted them down in the sea.

    They drowned them beneath cliffs of body metal
    until spears rolled over in arcs.

    Ember insects forged away,
    stripping out trees in flames of light.

    Rain could not extinguish
    hut fires banging and spitting into roiling clouds.

    What men held arms outstretched in welcome
    found no Viking doves of peace

    but blackness where their gowns roasted.
    Lashes rolled, skin melted to pelts of bubbles.
    Each man shoved in alive struggled to grip his own soul.

    Eyes crazed as beach pebbles met my focus,
    stared as if reading strange letters.

    Vikings returned for equine stock,
    stealing our monastery horse from his field.

    Oh, brave Bows and Arrows,

    Courageous little horse.

    Into the sea his legs lunged like wheels,
    foaming over ocean crests.

    He escaped, swimming home in sinking leaps.
    My distant moonlit sighting of him
    cannot halter him yet

    but sets him loose so he runs the island free,
    drumming his nostrils clear of Viking stink.

    I tried to do a sketch of his miracle kicks

    but my mind went weak

    from ceaseless lippings of the crumpling sea.

    The shells hauled blood rags like snagged weaving.

    Bodies lay still as if sleeping, curled upon the ground.
    Too real for death’s unrealness
    yet dead to my urging sounds
    winnowing through their still moving hair.

    The sight of a sail on the horizon

    is everywhere the gulls slip in and out of view.

    It is the far, crooked, turning dot

    that hurries me into a sweat

    when I do not already wish for their boat

    to come back

    and utterly destroy me too.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  6. I feel the need to express how wrong I feel this article is. You quote some sources, but very few. There have been imaging studies done on ECT patients, with no evidence of brain damage, as an example. And there are MANY studies that prove its effectiveness against suicidal ideation. I am a patient who was tremendously helped by the procedure. I would be dead without it. Obviously, every treatment can be criticized, but get your facts right. And acknowledge the many, many patients it has saved. Because that’s a fact too.

    • Because some people are helped by it does not negate the fact that many people suffer long-term cognitive impairment, memory loss… Brain damage. Most of these people were not informed of the risk. In my case I was outright lied to by the psychiatrist who told me he never had a patient undergo ECT who experience any form of memory loss or cognitive impairment afterward. I would not have agreed to ECT if he had told me the truth.

      Please provide a link to the many studies you refer to that show the effectiveness of ECT for suicidal ideation. I’ve never seen one study showing the effectiveness of ECT for anything.

      • “There have been imaging studies done on ECT patients, with no evidence of brain damage.”

        I would be very interested in seeing these studies. Please provide a link or source. Did they do the “imaging” before and then again after the ECT? Would loss of or damage to brain cells show up on imaging studies? Were cognitive tests administered in addition to the “imaging”?

        What you’re suggesting is that the thousands and thousands of patients who have reported memory loss and other cognitive problems after ECT are all either lying or deluded.

        I’ll still go by my own experience and the fact that prior to electroshock I held down a full-time high stress job and took courses toward a master’s degree. After electric shock I could no longer function at my job and suffered extremely dangerous short-term memory loss.

        • https://connect.springerpub.com/content/sgrehpp/19/1/24#:~:text=Despite%20many%20scientific%20and%20governmental,or%20degree%20of%20brain%20damage.

          I’m afraid that the literature shows brain damage to be quite common in ECT. In this review, they suggest some level of damage is always present. ECT “works” by inducing a grand mal seizure in the individual receiving it. When people have seizure disorders, we do everything we can to STOP them having seizures, specifically BECAUSE there is damage to the brain when uncontrolled seizures occur.

          I’m not trying to invalidate your personal reality, because what works for you is what works for you. But it is not accurate to suggest that loads of studies show no brain damage from ECT. It is most likely that any therapeutic effect for ECT is the result of minor brain damage. But sadly, it is not always “minor,” as many survivors of ECT can attest. It is, at best, a very risky procedure whose benefits are unpredictable and generally very short lived. That doesn’t mean that no one finds it beneficial, but it does mean that claims of “safety” are not supported by the scientific literature.

  7. Marni, I guess it is a bit like how alcohol can wreck many lives who wish they had never discovered it, but we need to allow adults to make their own considered and informed choices without judging them. Alcohol can save lives, as avalanche digging Saint Bernard dogs with red barrels around their collars know. Scot of the Antactic doubtless had a wee dram of Scotch before facing the blizzard. Life is full of blizzards and soon it is to have more actual blizzards because of climate change shutting down the Gulf Stream. The Gulf wisp, that cloudy brain wave wafting over the Northern hemisphere of the polar skull cap has been shocked to a flatline.

    People think the globe is heating up. I know differently. It will get hot in hot zones but in the North….

    The Ice Age cometh.

    Theyre selling Scotch at the corner store quite cheap.

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