Electro-Convulsive Therapy

(Shock Treatment)
What is it?


ECT had its beginnings in early Roman times when people would place an electrical torpedo fish against their heads to rid themselves of headaches. It would probably be equally effective for a headache sufferer to strike his finger with a hammer.

The more modern pioneer in this field was an Italian, Ugo Cerletti, who saw that slaughterhouse operators used electric shock to send pigs into epileptic convulsions in order to make it easier to slit their throats. This is essentially what ECT does to humans: it creates a nerve–wracking convulsion of long duration. And it leaves irreversible brain damage.

Download and read the booklet ECT The Brutal Reality

Despite the obviously devastating effects this would have upon personality and intelligence, criticism was short-lived. In 1942, Dr. Abraham Myerson said: “The reduction of intelligence is an important factor in the curative process. The fact is that some of the very best cures that one gets are in those individuals whom one reduces almost to amentia [feeble-mindedness]....”

At least 20 percent of patients administered electroshock had compression fractures of the vertebrae. That patients suffered broken bones and fractured spines and did so from the violent convulsions, also appeared to be of little concern.

Rather than stopping the “therapy,” psychiatrists began using muscle relaxants and anesthesia. Thus electroshock in the 1960s was redefined as “modified ECT.”

Today, psychiatrists around the world have reason to thank their ECT pioneers for a financial blessing which has showered them with the good things in life, all at the press of a button. Shock treatment, for the psychiatrist, is clean and quick and lucrative.

It is never referred to as shock treatment by those who profit from it. The word “shock” carries too many true, but threatening, connotations. Psychiatrists are more likely to tell you it is called “electrotherapy” or “electro–convulsive therapy” to blur any negative response. They’ll tell you openly that they don’t know how it “works,” nor that they have any scientific reasoning for why they think it is a good idea to destroy your brain cells.

The procedure is quick and straightforward. The patient is not allowed to eat or drink for four or more hours prior, to prevent vomiting during the procedure. A half hour before, a drug such as Atropine or Robinal, a medication that reduces secretions in the mouth and air passages, is given. This cuts down the risk of suffocation and other complications that could arise if the patient should swallow his own saliva. Dentures, jewelry, and hair ornaments are removed to avoid injury during the convulsion. The person is placed on a bed. A cart nearby contains life-saving equipment, including a “defibrillator” for jump–starting a heart in cardiac arrest.

A jelly is applied to the temples to improve electrical conductivity and to prevent burns. An anesthetic is injected into the vein, rendering the patient unconscious. A muscle relaxant is then administered, causing a virtual shutdown of muscular activity. The person is then placed on an artificial respirator until he resumes breathing on his own after treatment.

A rubber gag is placed in the mouth to stop the patient from breaking his teeth or biting his tongue. The electrodes are placed on the temples.

A button is pushed and between 180 to 460 volts of electricity sends a current searing through the brain from temple to temple (bilateral ECT), or from the front to the back of one side of the head (unilateral ECT). This creates a severe convulsion or seizure of long duration, called a grand mal convulsion which is identical to an epileptic fit. Because the muscle relaxant masks the body’s normal response to the shock, the administering psychiatrist usually looks for a curling up or twitching of the toes to determine if the shock has “worked.” Without this sign, multiple electric shocks can be given until the desired effect is achieved.

The entire procedure takes between five and fifteen minutes. For this, the psychiatric industry in the U.S. alone makes an estimated $3 billion per year.

Most patients are given a total of six to twelve shocks: one a day, three times a week. On top of this, most patients are given more than one series of treatments because they never experience permanent relief from it. In the U.S., this can increase a psychiatrist’s annual income by $27,300.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has estimated that more than 88,600 people are given ECT each year in the U.S., with the total number of treatments estimated at 260,000. However, this figure is only an estimate based on the APA’s collection of statistics that are more than 15 years old. It would seem that psychiatrists have no desire to monitor their systematic social crippling of tens of thousands of people each year. Newspaper articles in 1993 stated that the number of Americans undergoing ECT each year could be as high as 110,000.

Data collected in Texas revealed that electroshock in Texas is haphazardly applied, is dangerous if not deadly, and is used on a vulnerable patient population, specifically poor, elderly female patients. Its use among involuntarily committed patients is excessive, since involuntary patients by definition do not have the same rights to consider and possibly refuse treatment as do voluntary patients.

As of April 1, 2003, Medicare ceased all national coverage of “multiple seizure” electroshock treatments, after an investigation revealed the practice is unworkable and places patients at risk. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted the investigation after a December 2001 report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found multiple seizure electroshock had “none of the claimed benefits and many risks,” including “profound confusional states.”

The purpose of shock treatment is to create brain damage. As Dr. Michael Chavin states: “There is a shock wave through the brain, causing the brain to discharge energy in a very chaotic type of state. And this increases metabolism to a very high level which deprives the brain of oxygen and can actually destroy brain cells.” This brain damage is what brings about the memory loss and learning disability, as well as the spatial and temporal disorientation which always follows shock treatments.

All physical damage done to the brain by ECT is permanent and irreversible. There is evidence that the damage, once begun by ECT, is progressive and feeds on itself, leading to further brain deterioration, including physical shrinkage of the brain and a shortening of the life of the victim.

What You Can Do

1. Unless our legislators know that there is a serious problem here, nothing will get done. You need to do something to protect yourself, your family and your friends. Write to your state legislators demanding that electroshock be banned. Tell them about someone you know who has been harmed by ECT if you have that knowledge.

2. Report every incident of insurance fraud committed by any psychiatrist to your insurance company, health insurance fraud agency or police and demand that the culprit be prosecuted. Send a copy of your report to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

3. Report every incident of a psychiatrist abusing, assaulting, electroshocking or drugging a person to a law enforcement agent, also providing a copy to your nearest branch of CCHR. Whenever possible, collect the evidence of the abuse, especially details of what the psychiatrist has said about electroshock or research involving eiectroshock. Find witnesses who will testify. Insist that the offending psychiatrist is given a lie detector test when interrogated by law enforcement officials to determine if any other offense has been committed such as sexual abuse of a patient, or giving electroshock to a patient to wipe out the memory of a crime having been committed by the psychiatrist against the patient.

4. Hire a competent criminal attorney to ensure that the criminal complaint is prosecuted and the offender is brought to justice so that he or she can never harm another again.

5. If you are ever taken to a psychiatric facility against your will, immediately call an attorney. Do NOT consent to treatment. Execute a Living Will now and have that available.

6. If a psychiatrist attempts to give you, or is giving you any treatment against your will, report this immediately to CCHR and to your attorney, and get help.

7. If you or a family member or friend is displaying symptoms of mental trauma or unusual behavior, ensure that you or they get competent medical care from a doctor, not a psychiatrist. Insist upon a thorough physical examination to determine whether an underlying, undiagnosed physical problem is causing the condition.