Psychiatrist Peter Breggin Urges Shock Ban

by Peter R. Breggin.MD. Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry
(Springer Publishing Co.,1997, pp.155-156)

“I have long argued that ECT is an ineffective, dangerous, anachronistic treatment that should be abandoned by modern psychiatry. Yet, despite the urging of many victims of ECT, I refused for many years to endorse public or legislative efforts to ban it.  It was my position that the practice of medicine and the rights of patients were better served by insisting on informed consent–and by holding liable those psychiatrists who fail to convey to their patients the controversial nature of ECT and its potentially damaging effects. Unfortunately…organized psychiatry is determined not to inform professionals or patients about the risk of ECT….The APA report (American Psychiatric Association 1990) provides a shield for those who recommend and administer ECT–an ‘official’ conclusion that there is no serious risk of harm.  Doctors who prescribe or recommend ECT can try to hide behind this report when their injured patients protest to them or bring legal action…Informed consent for ECT becomes a mirage…I now endorse public efforts to ban ECT. The banning of ECT should be supported by all concerned mental health professionals….  Some patients do feel ‘helped’ by ECT. Often they have been so damaged that they cannot judge their own condition. They suffer from iatrogenic denial and helplessness.  But should a treatment be banned when some people believe they are helped by it?  In fact, it is commonplace in medicine and psychiatry to withdraw treatments and devices that have caused serious harm to a small percentage of people, even though they may have helped a very large percentage. The risk of serious injury to a few outweighs helping many….  In the case of ECT, a large percentage of people are being harmed, and there’s little evidence that many are being helped. There’s no evidence that the treatment prevents suicide or rescues desperate cases.  At best the treatment offers a very poor trade-off–potentially irreversible brain damage and mental dysfunction in exchange for the docility and temporary emotional blunting or euphoria that result from the damage.”


2 comments so far

  1. E.H. on

    I was a student of psychology at a prominent university in Canada ten years ago. We very briefly studied electroshock. Back then just the name alone was enough to convince me it was barbaric. The professor who spoke about it moved so quickly through the topic you would have thought his life depended on cutting the lesson short.

    After several years in school, and a very long period of what psychiatry would term “atypical depression”, I grew disenchanted with the study of psychology as a science. Extrapolations made from observations of confined and often tortured animals to people did not seem reasonable or rational to me (nor later did it seem ethical.) Attempts to quantify and label individuals seemed to me to be an attempt to rob people of their personalities. Studying psychology was doing nothing to fix my depression. I decided, in part due to low marks, to branch out into the field of environmental sciences.

    I never graduated university because of the depression. For many years I was not able to work. I took various SSRIs, and none seemed to work. Eventually my GP prescribed Celexa. It took two years to “work”. In that time I was also forced to get a job, and move out of a dysfunctional living arrangement. The job I landed was through a friend, and I enjoyed it. My life slowly improved. Was this the drug, or situational changes?

    After two years of medication, I stumbled across something I had never in four years of schooling been taught–acupuncture can be used to treat depression. I was astounded, and signed up for it. The sleeping problem I had had while depressed never remitted in spite of the Celexa. I fully believed that acupuncture could help me. And it did. After one treatment of acupuncture, my depression was gone. So were various other ailments I had had for a lengthy period of my life. I was elated.

    This period lasted for two years. I stopped taking Celexa cold turkey (NEVER DO THIS), and nothing happened.

    In Dec. of 2005, due to many situational problems, including spousal abuse, I decided to take one pill of Celexa. I anticipated I was going to get depressed. I was right.

    Over the course of the next six months, I alternated on and off of Celexa. It now made me nauseous–thus the stopping and starting. Eventually though I resolved to stay the course. I took it every day for a month and a half.

    In that course of time I ruined my life, and incurred what seems to be permanent brain damage, along with physical health problems. I had hallucinations, urges to kill people, restlessness (which I now know is called akathisia), mania, agitation…I was removed by a psychiatrist from the med cold turkey, and put on other disabling drugs. My life since then has been a fog–my memory is severely damaged, things often don’t make sense to me, I get disoriented in places I have known my whole life…the list goes on.

    The reason I am writing this is that I feel that there is no such thing as informed consent. I knew about some of the “side” effects of Celexa, including the warnings about suicidal thoughts (which should be labeled overwhelming suicidal urges or compulsions.) And though there exists a form of informed consent, in Canada at least, where drugs are concerned, it is grossly distorted to minimize the damages that such drugs do. Anyway, my point is that informed consent cannot ever be said to exist because it presupposes that experiential knowledge and book learning are equivalent. I could have spent the rest of my life studying hallucinations, or other psychological manifestations, but without having lived them, I could never really truly be said to KNOW what it is like to experience them. Words on a piece of paper require imagination to bring them to life, and even then there are things that no person could even remotely presume to imagine without having experienced them. So it must be with ECT. Though words might deter many, they cannot ever accurately reflect the reality of living with a damaged memory. And those who have lived it have not the capacity to truly convey the message to those who have not.

    I wholeheartedly agree that ECT should be banned. My current psychiatrist tried to coerce me into receiving this “treatment”; had I not studied psychology, I too would be a victim.

    I would go further though, and say that we need an end to psychiatry, and to a society which encourages and rewards the control of other people, and the natural world.

  2. E.H. on

    One more comment about this article. If the psychiatric profession will listen to those who purport to have been helped by ECT, why will they not listen to those who say they have not been helped?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: