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Electroconvulsive Therapy: Forcing Brain Damage on Patients?

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posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:03 PM
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a controversial protocol in psychiatry which involves the utilization of electric current to induce grand mal seizure in patients. Many psychiatrists believe that ECT is effective in the treatment of depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and numerous other ailments.

Many former patients (ECT survivors) and anti-psychiatry activists, however claim that ECT amounts to nothing more than a closed-head injury and as such, should be banned. Studies appear to support claims that ECT leads to life-long reductions in IQ (>30 points), memory (anterograde and retrograde amnesia), decreased self-esteem, among other things. Furthermore, experts such as Dr. Peter Breggin (a psychiatrist himself) insists that any apparent "improvement" in the patient is the result of organic brain syndromeand that the transient euphoria patients experience is not indicative of the efficacy of ECT as a treatment, but is a symptom of brain damage. Who's right here?

Even today, patients are being given ECT against their will; typically by court order and against the family's wishes and without the patient's consent. It is happening in the United States and Canada (and other parts of the world) as we speak. Why are we allowing this violation of basic human right to continue? Make no mistake about it, people are being tortured.

Sue Clark's Exposing Psychiatry
Personal ECT Stories
Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault
ECT Then and Now
The No Force Coalition
The pros and cons of ECT: electroconvulsive therapy: Is ECT right for me or my loved one?
What you should know about ECT
"Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy"
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) - The imposition of ‘truth’?
Public Hearing on Electro convulsive Treatment before the Mental Health Committee of the New York State

Google Video Link

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:29 PM

Originally posted by X-tal_Phusion
Even today, patients are being given ECT against their will; typically by court order and against the family's wishes and without the patient's consent.

I wonder if you have a reliable source that this is an extensive practice?

ECT is a highly effective treatment for depression that is refractory (does not respond to) anti-depressant medication or psychotherapy. It is not used as a first-line treatment by any means: indeed, over the twenty years since I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder, no one has suggested it as a treatment for me.

Some at least of your sources are very misleading: they talk about ECT as it was practiced fifty years ago; current practice bears little resemblance to that.

I would be very interested to see a recent (say, last 10 years) case or two in which ECT was performed even though a patient's family had expressed the wish that ECT not be carried out and the patient themselves either did not or could not consent to the procedure.

Depression is a terrible, mind and soul-crippling disorder. One of its worst tricks is that while depressed a person often feels that there is no hope, no escape, that any treatment is bound to fail. Spreading misinformation about one of the few treatments that actually works in a small subset of depressives does not help the matter.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:32 PM
Ask and you shall receive. This is happening right now:

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:47 PM
reply to post by X-tal_Phusion

It definitely shouldn't be given against a person's will. That's just wrong in this day and age. I've read that it does "help" chronically depressed patients feel better, but so does crack. Long terms effects do happen I would say with ECT, which is why is should be very restricted in its use. But as a medical professional, I'd never recommend it for others.

I don't believe any (well some I suppose) medical treatment or medicine should be banned. Psychologists actually used MDMA I think it was to help in therapy sessions for couples. The psychologists said that 1 or 2 sessions with MDMA was equivolent of like 2 years of therapy. But now that its banned it can't be used and research can't be done. Same with salvia divornium, if it gets banned it can't be researched and its been reported that the day or so after people with depression can feel their symptoms decline. So think about how nice it would be to have an effective alternative to the SSRI that works for depression.

Like I was saying, immidiate effects can be felt with ECT, but the long term effects creep up and once those kick in and your mind is damaged, drugs or further ECT won't help.

Some at least of your sources are very misleading: they talk about ECT as it was practiced fifty years ago; current practice bears little resemblance to that.

It's the same procedure really, just now they paralyze the muscles and knock them out before hand.

[edit on 21-4-2009 by ghaleon12]

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:51 PM
reply to post by X-tal_Phusion

I don't generally watch videos, because I think they're poor sources of information most times (inadequate sourcing, too much spin control in lighting, sound, music, visual effects, etc). I think the written word is more trustworthy.

But I did watch that video, and I do feel for that man.

But it certainly didn't tell us the whole story. First, for whatever reason, he has a medical and legal conservator who has been appointed for him by the court system and who has given consent for the continuing treatments. In such a case, this would replace the family's wishes; if there is reason to believe the conservator is not acting in the patient's best interests that should be pursued in a court of law and either his mother or (and presumably this is the case or he wouldn't have one now) if she is unable or inappropriate to fill that role, a new conservator could be appointed.

Second, we are given no image of what his life was like prior to 2007 when the ECT treatments began. His main expressed reason that he wants them to stop is because it requires fasting before the treatment -- I can easily imagine that without treatment his condition was far more unpleasant than being subjected to two 12-hour fasts per month.

Third, we are not given any medical expert's opinion or point of view as to why the continuing treatments are needed. Both he and his mother are clear on the fact that the first treatments made him better -- there may be a good reason for the doctors to believe that stopping treatment would result in a relapse.

And all of that is assuming that the case is genuine, that the people in the video are who they say they are and are not lying about any of the circumstances, and that they are not being paid or otherwise reimbursed as spokespersons of the anti-psychiatry movement.

It's going to take a lot more to convince me that there is an extensive practice of subjecting people to ECT against their wishes and against the wishes of those responsible for making medical decisions for them.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 07:54 PM
I agree that it shouldn't be done against a person's wishes except in cases where they cannot express their wishes themselves and their family does instead. But I've also heard cases of ECT being extraordinarily helpful in treating certain conditions, especially those which medications and therapy have been ineffective.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 09:07 PM
It shouldn't be done without the persons consent unless they are too incapacitated to understand and there are no other resorts than to have it done.

I've always hated the idea of this though, ever since watching One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and Requiem For A Dream.

[edit on 21/4/09 by Nventual]

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 10:02 PM
reply to post by ghaleon12

I really liked your response.
It was fair, balanced and made a good point about it's research value. How can we know how damaging it really is if we don't allow it to be studied?

I'm glad to hear that you would never use it. I personally think it's barbaric (and I don't care how much anesthetic is used or who gets to decide when someone is going to have treatments). I have to wonder if the patient themselves is even in a position to be able to give informed consent when there is evidence of brain damage (although the full extent has yet to be clarified). Furthermore, I'm not sure how well Raymond is able to express himself after all those treatments. Quite possibly, he is unable to express all of his concerns and emotions, due to the nature of what's happened to him.

I realize that the modern version is not nearly as gruesome as its portrayal in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but that may not necessarily be a good thing. The apparent absence of external indications that a seizure is taking place could prompt psychiatrists to take a more liberal approach to voltage application during ECT.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 10:18 PM
They use to think eletricty was the cure for everything, this was 100 years ago but this pratice, of frying someones brain right out of stone age medicine. Only thing is they did not have electricty in stone age, but if they did, this is what they would have been doing with it.

This is almost as bad as when they pounded a ice pick up France Farmer's nose, and scrambled her brain with a coat hanger, but not quite.

I perfer chemical labotomy myself, at least it wears off after while I think?

[edit on 21-4-2009 by googolplex]

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 10:30 PM

Originally posted by X-tal_Phusion

I realize that the modern version is not nearly as gruesome as its portrayal in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" but that may not necessarily be a good thing. The apparent absence of external indications that a seizure is taking place could prompt psychiatrists to take a more liberal approach to voltage application during ECT.

In Requiem For A Dream there is ECT performed towards the end with violent seizures from the patient. It's very hard to watch, made me sick.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 10:49 PM
reply to post by americandingbat

What would satisfy your curiosity? A firsthand witness? An ECT survivor here on ATS?
Raymond's family is acting on his behalf because legal proceedings have failed to keep his best interests at heart:

Ray Sandford: Help Stop Forced ECT, and Protect Freedom
Stop the Forced Electroshock of Ray Sandford
Taxpayers foot the bill for ECT torture in MN
Ray Sandford: Watch the video, share it and advocate! to stop forced ECT
Ray Sandford Declares "Guarded Victory" for MindFreedom Ray Campaign
Shock treatment & Ray Sandford: Forced ECT is not humane psychiatric care!
In Their Own Words: ECT Survivor, Advocates Speak Out Against Continued Forced Electroshocks
Minnesota man fights forced electroconvulsive therapy
Marybeth Dorn was judge who continued Ray Sandford's forced electroshock

Forced ECT is Wrong in Minnesota, World

More ACTION Required for Ray Sandford—victim of forced ECT
Man Fights Order To Undergo Electroshock Therapy

... and there's plenty more where that came from!

Who's to say what constitutes, "better" in psychiatry? Does it mean that someone is more manageable, compliant and calm? Is it defined by the exhibition of "socially acceptable behavior" (as determined by "majority rules")? Does losing the ability to make one's own choices, no matter how discordant they seem to be with societal norms, mean that someone has been made "better"? We need to define what constitutes success in psychiatry before we can determine whether the ends justify the means.

So, is Raymond's case unique? Hardly! Here are a few more instances of forced ECT:

ECT challenge halted
Hundreds of patients given shock treatment without their consent
The Issue of Forced Electroshock
Forced Electroconvulsive Therapy - 130 shock treatments: 'They hurt, I don't want it'
New York State Continues Cover-up of Data on Forced ECT
Forced ECT
Green Party Senators are introducing a bill to cease forced electro-convulsive therapy (ECT)
From psychiatric patient to citizen

Is that enough or do you require more information to support my claim? I don't want you to think that I'm:
a) Making it up just to have something inflammatory to say that elicits a lot of responses or...
b) That I'm stretching the truth because I'm affiliated with scientology or some other such nonsense.

I would just like everyone to try and consider this from the patient's perspective. Even when a psychiatrist (who genuinely believes ECT is effective) tries to do everything right. Does anyone presented with a typical consent form realize what they're in for?
Sample ECT Consent Form

Many (not all) psychiatrists feel they are too busy to have a frank and honest discussion with their patients about ECT. In fact, the same goes for pharmacological treatments as well (but that is a topic for another time).

If you, a family member or court-appointed guardian were presented with this information, wouldn't you be inclined to consent? There's nothing wrong with trying it, right (especially if you're really desperate for relief)? Given our understanding at the present time, no. There isn't anything wrong with trying (and subjecting these efforts to extreme scrutiny as it could be valuable to research). However, when signs of trauma become apparent... and it is clear that one has bitten off more than they can chew (pardon the pun, in reference to the mouth-guard), shouldn't they be allowed to say, "Please! No more ECT!"?

There are other perfectly acceptable ways to protect the patient that do not involve inflicting further damage to the brain. I agree that efforts should be made to protect each and every patient from harm... but are we not substituting one type of injury for another? What about the long-term psychological damage of being forced to undergo this procedure against your will? That is my question!

P.S.- This is the image the public has of ECT. Harmless... temporary but mild side-effects... Hey! People even go on to medical school afterwards (implies that it can't be all that bad)! Here's another one. Seriously, if it was so harmless, why are so many survivors out there who are traumatized by what happened to them?

[edit on 21-4-2009 by X-tal_Phusion]

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 10:54 PM
reply to post by googolplex

If I remember right, a Dr. noticed that after seizures in patients with epilepsy, their moods were better. So he thought if he could artificially induce a seizure, it'd have the same effect in lifting someone's mood.

Most epileptics would love to get rid of their seizures, and here we have people that are asking for seizures.... strange world.

[edit on 21-4-2009 by ghaleon12]

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 11:09 PM
reply to post by X-tal_Phusion

Forcing a patient to undergo any medical procedure without his or her consent, or the consent of the person responsible for making their medical decisions, is both wrong and illegal.

That's not limited to ECT, and I would guess that the percentage of such unethically performed medical procedures that are in fact ECT is tiny.

Who should make medical decisions on behalf of a patient who cannot do so for his or her own self is a very tricky question. I don't doubt that judges have gotten it wrong sometimes; this may be one of those cases. But again, that is true regardless of what the unnecessary or unwanted procedure is; it would be just as true if he were being forced to under dialysis as ECT.

As for whether or not ECT is in itself abusive, it will be hard to convince me. I have talked to people who have voluntarily undergone ECT multiple times because it is the only thing that relieves their depression.

I myself hold out hope that the experiments being done now with implantable electronic devices will be successful, and that there will be such an option for me sometime in my life, allowing me to be functional without the medication I currently require.

So in the case of the man in your video: I think he should be appealing the judgment that assigned his legal guardian, not campaigning against ECT.

In the case of my good friend's sister, I hope ECT remains available to her as long as she needs it.

In the case of any doctor performing any procedure without legal consent from the patient or his/her representative, except in an emergency when such consent is impossible to get, I think they should lose their license.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 11:10 PM
I believe in most cases they could cure the persons mental disorder with mega dose B-complex vitamins. Not mega volts of eletricty, if this is enough to cause breaking of bones without sedation , what is it doing to the persons Brain?
I have seen first hand what the vitamins can do, most Doctors would denie mental illness was in most park chemical imbalance in brain.

This all started when some Doctor, quack, got the bright ideal to see what electricty would do to crazy person. It must pay well, none or minimal blood, and then, they say oh! look he's fine now, as he sits there drooling all over his self.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 11:29 PM
Clearly, a little self-disclosure is in order here. I am an ECT survivor. There, I said it!
And... for the record, I was 17 and my family did not consent to the treatment. After the 6th one, I staged a ward-wide protest (most of us were young women diagnosed with depression) in which we all refused further treatment. Against my will and without consent, I received 5 more. In a locked ward, I could not run away. In a strange city, I could not call my family (10 hours away) to come and rescue me.

As for implanted medical devices, I have a spinal cord stimulator and an intrathecal pump (both for chronic abdominal pain caused by damaged nerves). The medications I was given (in excessive dosages, I might add) trashed my pancreas to the point that pseudocysts gave way to a tumor (early cancer) by the time I was 25.

I believe research is important and particularly where implantable medical devices are concerned. But make no mistake, there is one part of me that will not ever be touched by a doctor again, so long as I am conscious: my head. If not for some serious rehab halfway around the world (Japan), I would not be anywhere near as successful as I am today. Memory problems persist but I have learned to cope. Not everyone is as lucky as I was and I believe that I have an obligation to protect those who are currently, or about to endure what I did.

That is why I chose to post this topic. I really do know what I'm talking about. If you have any more questions about what it was like for me, I'd be happy to tell you all about it.

posted on Apr, 21 2009 @ 11:53 PM
Sorry to hear that you had to endure that ordeal, and also hope you recover from the other problems they caused you to have.
I am well aware of how cold and heartless they are when there performing these procedures. I hope you have or have full recovery from these memories.

Good luck and God speed on your mission

[edit on 21-4-2009 by googolplex]

posted on Apr, 22 2009 @ 12:34 AM
reply to post by googolplex

Thanks for your concern. It is very much appreciated.

I thought I would leave one last reference before turning in for the night: "Toronto public hearings on electroshock: Testimonies from ECT survivors – Review and content analysis" (The International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine). Here.

"The main themes identified were: fear, physical symptoms after ECT, consent, memory loss, attitudes towards ECT, degradation/dehumanisation, control, information about treatment. These data suggest that ECT is not a form of healing, but instead the cause of more damage. Alternatives to ECT should be used more frequently, as ECT removes feelings of control. Human rights are often ignored. ECT is invasive and destructive and should be prohibited."

Just in case there was any doubt...

posted on Apr, 22 2009 @ 12:06 PM
Just in case everyone was wondering... here's where it happened:
Maybe things have changed since the early 90's but back then...

If there was an emoticon for zapping, I'd be using it here; all along the bottom row!

[edit on 22-4-2009 by X-tal_Phusion]

posted on Apr, 22 2009 @ 08:28 PM
[edit on 22-4-2009 by ghaleon12]

posted on Apr, 22 2009 @ 08:36 PM
reply to post by X-tal_Phusion

I learned the truth about Doctors when I was about 16, from then on though I learned to not get tricked by the MD after their name. Now I always do my own research first. I think we all unfortunately have to learn first hand about "Doctors". But giving people a heads up is great, I've been trying to do the same thing too after having some bad experiences.

[edit on 22-4-2009 by ghaleon12]

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