Archive for the ‘ECT – Electroconvulsive Therapy’ Category

CAPA letter to Canadian Pensioners Concerned


Dear Canadian Pensioners Concerned,Ontario Division,

We wish to call CPC’s attention to the psychiatric procedure called electroshock (“electroconvulsive therapy”/”ECT”). Contrary to popular belief, electroshock was never banned or restricted in Canada. Unfortunately, it is increasingly administered to women, mainly elderly women, usually without informed consent or against their will. We have compiled ECT statistics from the Ontario government’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that clearly show that two to three times more women than men are electroshocked, the overwhelming majority of these women are 60 years and older.

Since electroshock always causes some permanent memory loss and brain damage and since elderly women are its main targets, electroshock should be considered a form of elder abuse and violence against women. In this context, we urge you to read these two major articles by one of us, Dr. Bonnie Burstow:
”Understanding and Ending ECT: A Feminist Imperative”. Canadian Woman Studies, vol.25, numbers 1,2, 115-122 ( 2006), and
“Electroshock as a Form of Violence Against Women”. Violence Against Women, Vol 12, no.4. 372-392 (April 2006). Dr. Burstow is on the faculty in the Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of Toronto; she is also a widely-respected feminist, trauma specialist, author, chair of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA), a long-time friend and colleague.

For your further information, we are also pleased to attach a copy of the article titled “Electroshocking Elderly People: Another Psychiatric Abuse”, International Journal of Counselling Psychology and Psychotherapy, vol.15 no.2 (May 1997), written by Don Weitz. We also are attaching a copy of a recent media release, “Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers”, the theme of a Mother’s Day event on May 10,2009 in Toronto, organized by CAPA. Similar anti-shock events on Mother’s Day were also held last month in Montreal and Ireland, and last year in Ottawa as well.

We would appreciate your forwarding this letter and attachments to the CPC Board including Co-chairs Sylvia Hall and Margaret Watson, and Ms. Moyra Haney, chair of your Health/Environment Committee.
We very much hope that CPC puts electroshock on its agenda as a major health and human rights issue that must be addressed. If so, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to your reply.

Dr. Bonnie Burstow, Chair, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault
Dianne Moore, Executive Member
Don Weitz, Executive Member
Executive Committee, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault

Contact: Dr. Bonnie Burstow,, ph:416-538-7103; Don Weitz,, 416-545-0796

CAPA’s Media Release-Shock Protest on Mother’s Day, May 10/09

Media Release – May 2009


Date: Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009
Time: 1:15pm (March) & 2pm (demo)
Place: Queen’s Park, Toronto

The Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) announces another public
protest against psychiatry’s use of electroshock (“electroconvulsive
therapy” or “ECT”).   CAPA is a political action organization that
addresses psychiatric violence (see website below).  This special Mother’s
Day event is co-sponsored by Maggie’s and the Association of Part-Time
Undergraduate Students of the University of Toronto and is endorsed by
over 20 women’s, human rights, and social justice organizations.  This is
an international protest which occurs every year and which takes place in
locations throughout the world including Montreal and Cork Ireland.  This
year’s Toronto protest starts with a march at 1:15 pm at the NE corner of
Spadina and College (in front of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry,
CAMH); the rally, which includes shock survivor-testimony, speeches, and
entertainment, starts at 2:00 pm in Queen’s Park.  The keynote speaker is
MPP Cheri DiNovo.  Entertainment includes the legendary singer and
activist Faith Nolan.

The event is being held on Mother’s Day because a disproportionate number
of women generally and elderly women in particular are subjected to ‘ECT’
and ‘ECT’ is now considered the treatment of choice for postpartum
depression.  According to ‘ECT’ statistics (see Burstow 2006), 2-3 times
more women than men undergo ‘ECT’; approximately 70% of patients shocked
are women; 50% of these are women 65 and over.

The largest study in electroshock history was conducted in 2007 by Harold
Sackeim et al. At the level of statistical significance, it proves that
that electroshock always causes brain damage, including permanent memory
loss, and that women and the elderly suffer the most damage from it.
Other important pieces of research show that women are greatly traumatized
by the damage (see Burstow, 2006) and that despite claims to the contrary,
electroshock is no more effective than placebo (Ross, 2006).

This damage is authorized and paid for by the state and we demand that the
state put an end to it.  On May 10th, we call on psychiatry and the state
to stop shocking our mothers and grandmothers.  Join us in delivering this
challenge.   Eat with us, listen to testimony and other speeches, enjoy
the entertainment.  This is a child-friendly event (bring your children).
This is a BYOMAG event  (bring your own mother and grandmother).   Let’s
make Mother’s Day count.

Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault:,
Contact persons: Dr. Bonnie Burstow, 416-538-7103; Don Weitz, 416-545-0796

The Betrayal of Ray Sandford: Electroshock, Torture, and the Lutheran Church
by Don Weitz

Note: This opinion piece is partly based on a letter I sent a few months ago to the Minnesota branch of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Minneapolis,

It’s a miracle that 54-year-old Ray Sandford is still alive after having been forcibly electroshocked over 40 times in less than 6 months. He may not survive another electroshock (“ECT”) procedure. In 2008, Ray was court-ordered to undergo an indefinite number of electroshocks, with the approval of Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty,  the state psychiatric organization and the Lutheran Church, specifically Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. On December 24, Mr. Sandford was forcibly subjected to his 36th shock. Some Christmas gift!  By April 2009, Ray has undergone over 40 electroshocks against his will.  By any standard of medical ethics, this is cruel and unusual treatment or torture, a blatant and continuing violation of human rights.

Electroshock – shock promoters sanitize and call this horrific psychiatric procedure “electroconvulsive therapy”– is inherently destructive and inhumane. During every ‘treatment’, an average of 200 volts is delivered to the brain through attached electrodes. The immediate effects are a grand mal epileptic seizure, convulsion, and coma. When the patient awakens, s/he experiences a severe headache, disorientation (not knowing where you are, the date and/or your own name), physical or muscle weakness, trauma, and memory loss, which is frequently permanent. Permanent memory loss always indicates brain damage. Many shock survivors and professional critics assert the brain damage including memory loss always occurs following every  ‘treatment’. According to neurologists, the so-called “improvement” following a series of ‘ECTs’ is actually temporary euphoria or giddiness that regularly occurs after head injury, the so-called ”improvement” or ”high” from electroshock lasts a maximum of 6-8 weeks. The average number of ECTs administered to the person is 8-10. Mr. Sandford has already been forcibly shocked over four times that number – one shock is one too many!

For several months since last spring, Ray Sandford has tried to refuse electroshock- he told his psychiatrist, a judge, and a spokesperson for the Lutheran Church that he suffering serious effects of the shocks and wants them stopped immediately. To their shame, not one of these authorities listened, they’ve callously ignored Mr. Sandford’s competent refusal.

The Lutheran Church of America’s refusal to get involved in Ray’s case is particularly troubling and inexcusable – a betrayal of trust. The Church cannot plead ignorance about electroshock since its many devastating and permanent effects have been widely published in medical journals and the media for over 50 years. The Church also cannot justify its silence when it claims that making a public statement would violate Mr. Sandford’s right to confidentiality or privacy. In fact, Mr. Sandford has explicitly and repeatedly urged survivor and human organizations, such as MindFreedom International, to publicize his struggle to stop the electroshocks. Having survived over 40 ECTs, it’s amazing that Mr. Sandford is still alive. That fact speaks to Mr. Sandford’s courageous refusal of electroshock and his will to live—a sharp contrast to the Lutheran Church’s continuing and inexcusable silence and its implicit support of this memory-destroying, brain-damaging procedure.

For over 25 years, many of us shock survivors, other psychiatric survivors, professional critics including psychiatrist Peter Breggin, neurologist John Friedberg, and neuroscientist Peter Sterling, and human right activists have protested against electroshock in various states including California and Texas; anti-shock protests and public demonstrations have also been held in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal in Canada, as well as Cork, Ireland and New Zealand. We‘re demanding an immediate ban. Through the organizational initiatives of MindFreedom International, a coalition of over 100 psychiatric survivor and human rights organizations in 14 countries, MindFreedom Ireland, and the Toronto-based Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA), we have launched national and international campaigns to ban electroshock because we know it’s traumatic, frequently torturous, and unethical. Over 2 months ago on February 1, the CAPA Executive including myself wrote a letter of protest to Erick Jonsgaard, Ray’s ‘general guardian’ – he never replied.

Given that the Lutheran Church is a religious and Christian organization, I find it bitterly ironic that on December 24, the day before Christmas when Mr. Sandford was forcibly shocked the 36th time, the Church refused to speak out, refused to raise any ethical or moral issues involved in electroshock, and refused to provide any meaningful support to Ray Sandford in his hours of great personal suffering and crisis.  Equally unfortunate, his lawyer appears to be more of a hindrance than help. On April 15, 2009, USA Tax Day, Ray Sandford will be forcibly shocked again  – in the name of “mental health”. Perhaps Minnesota taxpayers will be shocked to know a portion of their taxes are being used to forcibly shock and brain-damage Ray Sandford and other vulnerable citizens.

Biographical note: Don Weitz is an insulin shock survivor, executive member of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault, and co-editor of Shrink Resistant: The Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada.

1401-38 Orchard View Blvd.,Toronto,Ontario M4R 2G3

Ottawa ECT Poster for Mother’s Day, May 10/09

Hello everyone:  Below is the Ottawa ECT protest flyer:

MAY 10th, 2009 – OTTAWA, ONTARIO

Meet at the Centennial Flame


613-721-1833 see the ICBE website: <>  ³events²

The International Campaign to Ban Electroshock (ICBE) is holding its second annual protest against electroshock (ECT)

ECT is still around, it never left.

130 hospitals in Canada continue to give ECT.  ECT is not safe nor are the ECT machines.  A recent study byHarold Sackeim reports that ECT causes brain damage 100% of the time.  People are not being told the truth about ECT.  See for more info.  See the Blog and News section to read this article.

Approximately 14,000 ECTs are given in Ontario yearly.  100,000 Americans get ECT yearly, worldwide it is estimated that 1 to 2 million people get ECT yearly.

Sue Clark-Wittenberg the director of the ICBE had ECT which damaged her.  Sue suffers from permanent memory loss and has difficulty learning new things.

Sue says ³I don¹t want anyone to go through what I did.  I was tortured²

The ICBE deems ECT to be barbaric, unethical, inhumane, torture and a crime against humanity.

The ICBE is working with others around the world to  help end ECT universally.

regards,Sue (Ma’at) Clark-Wittenberg
MFI member –
Director, International
Campaign to Ban Electroshock (ICBE)
Website URL: <;

Electroshock is a crime against humanity”

letter from Colette,a shock survivor in Ireland,posted by Don Weitz July1/08


As an involuntary electro shock survivor, I was most moved to witness Green Party Senators Deirdre De Burca and Dan Boyle present Dr Michael Corry’s Bill on involuntary electro shock and neurosurgery in the Senate yesterday.

I was given electro shock first in my teens and other sessions subsequently. My memory was severely impaired. It affected me very badly at work over the years.

A woman close to me, then a beautiful young girl, was given a lobotomy and has the mind of a child ever since. She had to spend the rest of her life in care.

The sooner this barbaric practice becomes a thing of the past, I and other electro shock survivors, will be able to breath and live more freely.


Colette Ni Dhuinneach, MindFreedom Ireland.


Breggin Book Announcement
check out The 2nd/2008 edition of Dr. Peter Breggin’s outstanding Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry
see this site: – good summary

Anti-shock statement from survivor Evelyn Scogin in Texas

 posting this with permission, also check out site: – Don

Here is Evelyn’s latest writing, which can also be seen in the survivor stories of our website:

I will choose…

…what enters me, what becomes one with my body, mind and spirit.

Before, without a true understanding—”True Informed Consent”—I became another guinea pig to the psychiatric system.

No more will I blindly accept the word of the psychiatric system as law. My body, mind, and spirit are not yours for experimentation with pills and mind-altering electric convulsive therapy. Because I allowed this to happen when I needed help, my situation is worse than before. I am treated differently than I was before.

Before, I was a teacher. I helped deaf students with special needs. Before, I had a home. Before, I was involved in the community. Before, I had the support of many friends and family.

Now I have very little memory of my decline. I can no longer work or drive. I easily become lost. My memory of the past has a lot of gaps. My short-term memory is very short. I now have few friends and family supporters. I am not the person I was before. I am lost.

Today I choose…

…to stand up and to say to anyone who will listen, to the lawmakers of city, state, and federal governments these practices must stop, especially ECT.

This is my body, mind, and spirit. I gave it to the psychiatric community when I needed help. I want ti back.

My body, mind, and spirit are a non-negotiable demand.

Evelyn Scogin

February 2008

see this excellent anti-shock website below, click on “Electroshock and Women” – Bonnie is quoted

Dr. Friedberg’s anti-shock testimony in New York (2001)

 [posted with permission]

NYC, May 18, 2001
“In view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they (the masses) more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big.” Adolph Hitler. Mein Kampf, Vol.1, Ch. 10, 1924 tr. Ralph Manheim, 1943
My name is John Friedberg. I am a board certified neurologist practicing in Berkeley, California.
I was born in Far Rockaway (NYC) in 1942, graduated Lawrence High School, Yale University and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and for the past twenty years I’ve been seeing patients with every conceivable neurologic problem, from headaches to Huntington’s, in my office and in hospitals.
I am in good standing with my hospitals, professional societies and licensing boards and I’m proud to say I’ve never been successfully sued.
In 1975 I published my book “Shock Treatment Is Not Good For Your Brain” and in 1979 “Shock Treatment, Brain Damage and Memory Loss,” a peer reviewed article in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
I do not believe in mental illness. Depression is no more “the same as diabetes” than heartbreak is the same as a heart attack.
I do not believe in hypothetical diseases of the mind but there is no mistaking damage to the brain. Psychiatric drugs and electroshock inflict real injury in the name of treating fictive maladies. Paul Henri Thomas has Tardive Dyskinesia and heptatitis from psychiatric drugs and amnesia from the ECT.
My opinions are based on my years of experience with patients and review of records from all over the country as an expert witness electroshock malpractice cases. They are based on ECT statistics from the six states which mandate reporting; and of necessity, my opinions are based on a lifetime following publications and statements issuing from the small but vocal minority of psychiatrists who believe in ECT and usually nothing but.
Fortunately for me, the believers don’t always believe each other; their data frequently belie their conclusions; and what they actually do contradicts what they say they do. The truth slips out.
As one example: we have known since the 1950’s that confining electroshock to the non-verbal hemisphere (usually the right as in “unilateral non-dominant ECT”) causes less verbal impairment and memory loss than bilateral ECT but the recommendation to begin with non-dominant ECT is honored mostly in the breech.
Another example: the “grandfather” of ECT, Dr. Max Fink claims the rate of memory loss is 1 in 200. He has repeated this so often it sounds like a fact. But Harold Sackeim, Ph.D., just as much an enthusiast and just as aggressive, says Fink’s figure has “no scientific basis.”
Who to believe? My view is that memory loss from ECT is no “side effect;” it’s the main effect and the best studies find it in 100% of subjects.
Incidentally, Dr. Fink didn’t pick the number 1/200 out of thin air. 1/200 has consistently been the death rate from ECT administration – as far back as 1958 and as recently as Texas and Illinois in the 1990’s.
Big Lie 1: Dr. Fink tells people that ECT is safer than childbirth. If one out of every 200 women were dying in delivery it would be front page news.
Big Lie 2: ECT doesn’t cause brain damage. One picture will refute that. The illustration below (MRI on the right, CT left, same patient) depicts a large hemorrhage from ECT. Hemorrhages, large and small, cause permanent seizure disorders in some patients.

( Weisberg, L. Elliott, D and Mielke, D: Intracerebral Hemorrhage Following Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). November 1991, Neurology V 41 p 1849.)
Another MRI study documented a breakdown of the blood brain barrier and cerebral edema – brain swelling – after each and every shock. (Mander et al: British Journal of Psychiatry, 1987: V 151, p 69-71)
Big lie 3: ECT is new and improved. The whole point of ECT is to trigger a convulsion and there is simply no way around the brain’s threshold: 100 joules of energy, a typical “dose,” whether brief pulse, square wave, sine wave, AC or DC, unilateral or bilateral, with or without oxygen equals the energy it takes to light up a 100 watt bulb for one second or drop a 73 pound weight one foot. And it’s the energy that does the damage.
Big lie 4: ECT is a “Godsend” (Fink again). In March of this year, Dr. Sackeim published a study in JAMA showing a “relapse rate” of 84% within six months of stopping ECT. It is no coincidence that improvement ceases just as the concussive effects are finally waning. Sackeim’s solution?: more ECT. Call it “maintenance” or call it “continuation,” just don’t stop. (JAMA. 2001;285:1299-1307).
Big lie 5: No one knows how ECT works. On the contrary, everyone knows how ECT works. It works by erasing memory and terrifying people.
ECT isn’t back – it never went away. It’s more common than appendectomy.
What has happened is that it’s advocates have grown more arrogant and the number of patients forced to undergo ECT against their will is increasing.
This was brought to public attention by Paul Henri Thomas fighting for his life and his mind at Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island. Over the past two years he has been subjected to 60 shocks and a judge just ordered up 40 more. The newspapers state the Mr. Thomas was born in Haiti, emigrated from oppression and was granted American citizenship.
To be held down, drugged and forcibly administered convulsive dose after convulsive dose of electroshock to the head: can anyone think of a greater assault on a human being’s rights – short of death – in the whole world? And it’s happening here in the land of the free. That’s not acceptable.
We have had 60 years of poignant testimony from eloquent victims of electroshock. Ernest Hemingway complained it ruined his memory and put him out of business. He killed himself within weeks of concluding a second course of ECT. George Orwell ends 1984 with his protagonist being forced to love Big Brother on an electroshock table.
I urge you to declare a moratorium on electroconvulsive therapy until it can be proven safe by evidence, not proclamation.
I urge you to declare a moratorium on electroconvulsive therapy until patients can be guaranteed free and informed choice.
Thank you.

vote & video for shock survivors in Texas/Leonard Roy Frank’s ‘Aftermath”

thanks, Don!

voting for this round starts tomorrow (saturday) evening at 8:00pm Central time.

i hope you got to watch the video.

—– Original Message —–
From: Don Weitz
To: john breeding
Sent: Friday, March 21, 2008 9:18 AM
Subject: Re: Ready for Saturday night PUSH TO FINAL FIVE dedicated to Leonard Roy Frank + “Aftermath”

I  tried to vote but informed voting closed March 15 – also tried but failed to register previous times- good luck
On 21-Mar-08, at 3:58 PM, john breeding wrote:

VOTING FOR TOP 5 BEGINS 8 PM CST Saturday 3.22.08 …for 2 weeks!

Mary Marvel’s documentary of the
5th Annual Roky Erickson Psychedelic Ice Cream Social Celebrating Electroshock Survivors!!!

Sumner Erickson, Roky Erickson, J.T. Van Zandt, Powell St. John, Robyn Hitchcock, Jim Franklin, MIchelle Shocked, Leonard Roy Frank, Jack Blood…and more!

To all our friends and allies,

In the first round, we finished 19 of 338 to make the Top 50;

In the second round, we finished 12 of 50 to make the Top 25;

In round 3, we finished 7 of 25 to make the Top 10…


And get others on board. If each of us can get another supporter or 2, I think we can make the final gala and get even more PR on our important cause!


Here is the link to the documentary ready to be voted on. If you are logged in, you just click the vote buttton. If you are not,, click it anyway and it will direct you to to register or login, then click it again and vote:

Here are basic directions:

1. register with (they will have to send your email a
Confirmation to your email, and then you can vote.) [NOTE: Once registered, you can have your login remembered, and then all you have to do is click on the video (step 2) and vote-very quick! ]

2. Each day, every day, once a day   … from March 22 until April 5, you can pull up the
URL at  and vote by clicking the icon with a check at the top right of the movie.    Then on April 5 they will go to the FINAL 5, and I want to be in that round, so we can really spread the word on artists challenging electroshock!!!

thanks again,

Leonard Roy Frank

With “therapeutic” fury
search-and-destroy doctors
using instruments of infamy
conduct electrical lobotomies
in little Auschwitzes called mental hospitals.

Electroshock specialists brainwash,
their apologists whitewash
as silenced screams echo
from pain-treatment rooms
down corridors of shame.

Selves diminished
we return
to a world of narrowed dreams
piecing together memory fragments
for the long journey ahead.

From the roadside
dead-faced onlookers
awash in deliberate ignorance
sanction the unspeakable —
silence is complicity is betrayal.