Leonard Frank’s letter re electroshock to ABC reporter

From: Leonard Roy Frank

To: Sibile Morency @ abc.com

Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 4:30 PM

Subject: Re: ECT data

Dear Ms. Morency,

David Oaks alerted me (and others on the Zapback listserv) to your interest in finding out the number of people being electroshocked currently.

As you undoubtedly know by now, accurate and verifiable figures on this subject are difficult if not impossible to find. California’s Dept. of Mental Hygiene publishes ECT figures annually; at least it’s supposed to. In recent years 2,500-2,700 people were being electroshocked in the state annually. These figures probably understate the extent of ECT being used because of the lax enforcement of California’s law (1977) requiring quarterly reports from ECT users (both in hospitals and in the offices of psychiatrists).

Your best bet may be to rely on estimates and in that connection I can supply you with some educated guesses, all of which are excerpts from my online book The Electroshock Quotationary, which was published in 2005 and is downloadable free of charge.

Since 1938, when Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini introduced the procedure at the University of Rome, more than six million Americans and millions of others throughout the world have undergone electroshock treatment. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, electroshock was administered to as many as 300,000 Americans a year. Today that figure is more than 100,000.

From the Introduction:

There is no official count, but in 1996 the estimate was that 100,000 patients per year were being treated with ECT in the United States…. If you take the 100,000 estimate per year and each patient gets an average of 10 treatments, that’s about 1 million treatments in 1996.

MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), quoted in Arline Kaplan, “Through the Times with Max Fink, M.D.,” Psychiatric Times, September 2005. According to Kaplan, “Fink believes that now the numbers being treated in the United States are beyond 100,000 patients per year, and he sees a revival of ECT in Europe as well.

Because ECT is given in virtually every country… of the world – and not infrequently at much higher rates of usage than in the United States, it is likely that between 1 and 2 million patients per year receive ECT worldwide.
RICHARD ABRAMS (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), Electroshock Therapy, 3rd ed., ch. 1, 1997.

For more information on ECT use and on the subject of ECT generally, you may want to contact Linda Andre, an electroshock survivor like myself, who is now writing a book on ECT for Rutgers University Press. She lives in Rockaway Beach, NY.

I hope this is helpful.
Sincerely yours,

Leonard Roy Frank
San Francisco, CA

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1 comment so far

  1. Bonnie Burstow on

    Nice as always to see Leonard doing this wonderful work. How worrisome, at the same time that we have such trouble getting good and reliable ECT stats! We need official counts. We need gender, age, and other breakdowns. And we need to be pressuring governments, insisting on our right to know.


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