From: Richard Winkel email@example.com
Re: "Shock and Disbelief", Atlantic Monthly February 2001
Given Daniel Smith's sanguine description of ECT on a drug-paralyzed and unconscious man, one can imagine how he might report on an execution by lethal injection, where sedatives and paralytic agents are also administered before the actual "treatment". Obviously the immobility of someone undergoing ECT demonstrates nothing if the patient cannot move. The question remains: can grand mal seizures cause brain damage? In the case of grand mal seizures caused by epilepsy the answer is an unequivocal "yes". It is therefore incumbent on psychiatry to demonstrate why this is not also the case with ECT, particularly since it adds a substantial extra punch: the shock itself, whos intensity (10,000 times normal brain electrical potential) has no natural neurological parallel. (see http://www.idiom.com/~drjohn/ect.html )
But psychiatry is ill prepared to provide such assurances, since 41% of APA members polled in 1978 (the last year for which data is publically available) reported that they believed ECT causes brain damage. Symptoms of brain damage include epilepsy, cerebral edema, amnesia, apathy, difficulty in concentrating, euphoria, giddiness, emotional and mental bluntedness, denial of personal problems and increased suggestibility, symptoms which have all been reported in ECT survivors. E. Cameron's horrific experiments on unsuspecting "patients" in the CIA's MKULTRA mind control project, passingly glossed over in Smith's article, quite conclusively demonstrate the permanently destructive power of ECT. (Cameron was, by the way, a world-reknowned psychiatrist and president of the World Psychiatric Association at the time) Finally, psychiatrists' open, explicit and systematic use of ECT to erase the memories and personalities of unhappily married women as recently as the 1970's brings their motives and credibility on this issue into question. (see Roche Lab's "Frontiers in Psychiatry" Nov 1 and Nov 15, 1972)
Despite psychiatry's ardent lobbying efforts with their friends at the FDA, ECT machines are still classified as a type III medical device, meaning that its safety has not been proven. Shock was already in use when the FDA started regulating medical devices, and so was "grandfathered-in". It's doubtful that running house current through the brain would be considered medicine if it were introduced today.
Thus we are left with the subjective first-hand experiences of devastated survivors who have nothing to gain and much to lose in "coming out" with their grievances, vs the purportedly scientific second-guessing of economically biased and financially liable doctors, who freely admit their ignorance of how ECT works[*].
([*] Here's a theory for them: they are equating certain symptoms of brain damage (euphoria, giddiness, apathy and denial of personal problems) with an improvement in the the emotional state of the patient. The extreme suggestibility induced by recent shock also serves to make the patient more manageable, which is just the icing on the cake for psychiatrists)
Luckily Smith has found experts to to lead the way out of this quandary. Fink and Sackheim's dedication to scientific objectivity are legendary: their evangelization of the "1 in 200" figure for the probability of amnesia from ECT helped make it gospel truth in the psychiatric establishment and on ECT consent forms for nearly a decade, until Fink was recently forced to admit to the Washington Post that it was no more than an "impressionistic number" without a basis in any studies. Perhaps if they had read the Houston Chronicle of March 7, 1995 they would recall that this is in fact the DEATH RATE from ECT, caused by hemorrhagic stroke. Normally our high priests of mental health protect the public from such emotionally disturbing data, but a new Texas law, still unique in the USA, now requires psychiatrists to report deaths from ECT.
Largely because of a few "experts" like Fink and Sackheim, psychiatry has the plausible "scientific" deniability it needs to continue a lucrative practice which nearly 1/2 of psychiatrists believe to cause brain damage, (in accordance with well established animal and human research findings) which has destroyed the lives of an unknown number of innocent and trusting victims, (unknown because outside of Texas, psychiatry jealously guards its hospital records from independent researchers) some of whom have had the courage and stamina to speak out despite having to relive their trauma and loss while enduring psychiatric patronization and stigmatization. Predictably, their impassioned pleas have been systematically ignored by these self-appointed enforcers of "behavioral health". In any other branch of "medicine", malpractice lawyers would be beating down the door to have at this well-fattened turkey.
But that's the beauty of the psychiatric scam: it is virtually impossible to successfully sue an abusive shrink, in part because they alone have access to the data which would prove or disprove their malfeasance. As long as credulous journalists, judges and juries trust psychiatry to police itself, the minds and lives of society's most vulnerable people will continue to be devastated by this barbaric quackery, while the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the allegedly "past abuses" Smith refers to will continue into the future, and a gullible and ignorant public will be reassured that the fox really is working for the hens.
Of course it's easier to trust the "experts" and presume that psychiatry is immune from conflicts of interest and institutional corruption. One might as well trust that G.W. Bush won the Florida vote, if only because the alternative is too troubling to contemplate.