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
Hello everyone: Below is the Ottawa ECT protest flyer:
MAY 10th, 2009 – OTTAWA, ONTARIO
1 p.m – PARLIAMENT HILL
Meet at the Centennial Flame
FOR MORE INFO CALL SUE:
613-721-1833 see the ICBE website: intcamp.wordpress.com <http://intcamp.wordpress.com> 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 Breggin.com 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 –
Campaign to Ban Electroshock (ICBE)
Website URL: intcamp.wordpress.com <http://intcamp.wordpress.com>
Electroshock is a crime against humanity”
ANTIPSYCHIATRY RADIO – TAKE BACK OUR RADIO
Transcript – March 11, 2009
Welcome to a very special edition of Antipsychiatry Radio. I’m Don Weitz, your proud producer-and-host of Antpsychiatry Radio. Originally titled Shrinkrap over 12 years ago, Antipsychiatry Radio was producing and broadcasting critical opinions and exclusive interviews with courageous psychiatric survivors and antipsychiatry activists and critics of the psychiatric system since 1994–until I was suddenly ‘dismissed’ and the program cut without notice, cause or reason on May 5 last year. Like many other CKLN programmers who’ve been censored, harassed, threatened, dismissed or fired, and locked out by a rightwing staff and board of directors, Antipsychiatry Radio was forced into exile. But no more, I’m back fighting to reclaim Antipsychiatry Radio, and 60 other programmers and hosts are also fighting to reclaim CKLN as the community, democratic and revolutionary voice of oppressed people in Toronto and beyond.
Tonight, I’m dedicating this special edition of Antipsychiatry Radio to all women psychiatric survivors and sister programmers. In honour of International Women’s Day, our sisters and feminists everywhere, tonight’s program features a special pre-recorded interview with Bonnie Burstow. Dr. Burstow is an outstanding and outspoken feminist and antipsychiatry activist, she is on the faculty in the Departments of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Burstow about her views on feminism, antipsychiatry and electroshock, and how she became an antipsychiatry activist. These are a few edited excerpts from that interview. Let’s listen to Part 1… [play CD, 7:46 minutes]
We’re now going to take a short break with an excerpt from the song “There Is
No Hole in My Head” by Malvina Reynolds [play CD 1 minute]
We’re continuing a special interview with feminist and antipsychiatry activist Dr. Bonnie Burstow. Let’s listen to Part 2… [Play CD, 6:50 minutes]
Like Dr. Burstow, some dissident professionals, shock survivors and activists have publicly protested against the psychiatric system, particularly electroshock. Many shock survivors, antipsychiatry and social justice activists including Dr. Burstow and myself want it banned. Electroshock is a symbol of coercive-biological psychiatry and the “mental health system” itself which is actually a social-control system based on the 3Fs of force, fraud and fear. Force because virtually all-psychiatric procedures like forced drugging, electroshock and physical restraints are assaults. Fraud because psychiatric diagnostic labels including “schizophrenia”, bipolar mood disorder”, ADHD” and “mental illness” itself do not refer to any physical illness or disease in the body; psychiatric diagnoses are subjective moral judgments of conduct or character assassinations. Fear because being locked up, forcibly drugged and not told when you’ll be released triggers fear or panic. Psychiatrists, their promoters and Big Pharma ceos who tell us that psychiatry is “medical science” are lying.
Electroshock is psychiatry’s major brainwashing weapon; it’s a memory-destroying, brain-damaging psychiatric procedure that does not deserve to be called “treatment”. It always causes some permanent memory loss, brain damage, trauma and fear. Several studies, including the comprehensive 2007 study by Dr Harold Sackeim and others, clearly and conclusively document the fact that both young and elderly women suffer significantly more memory loss and brain damage than men. “ECT” statistics I’ve obtained with great difficulty from Ontario’s Ministry of Health during the last 5 years clearly show that 2-3 times more women than men are shocked and roughly half of these women are over 60, which is why I also call shock a form of elder abuse. The neurological and psychological damage is generally permanent; hundreds (maybe thousands) have died after they were shocked. For example, well-known poets and writers such as Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Ernest Hemingway committed suicide shortly after they were shocked; the careers and lives of actress Frances Farmer and artist-social justice activist Paul Robeson and countless others were ruined after they were locked up and electroshocked. In her book The Politics of Cruelty, feminist writer Kate Millett has called electroshock not only cruelty but also torture. It’s obvious that electroshock is a human rights issue, it should also be a women’s issue, but so far electroshock is not a priority item on the feminist agenda.
Many women shock survivors, like Carla McKague and Paivi Lane in Toronto; Sue Clark in Ottawa; Wendy Funk in Whitehorse, Yukon; Helene Grandbois in Montreal; Mary Maddock in Cork, Ireland; in the United States many other shock survivor-sisters including Barbara Cody in Chicago and Linda Andre in New York have called electroshock, barbaric, cruel, a torture and crime against humanity. Grassroots resistance led by women survivors and feminist-activists is growing. During the last 3 years, women shock survivors and feminist-activists have led anti-shock rallies and protests in 3 cities in two countries–Canada and Ireland. On Mother’s Day in 2007, anti-shock protests were held in Toronto, Montreal and Cork, Island. The Toronto protest was organized by feminists, antipsychiatry activists and shock survivors in the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA); in Montreal a similar protest was organized by the Comite Par-chocks in collaboration with Action Autonomie and Collectif Pour le Defense des Droits en Sante Mentale de Montreal; in Cork, Ireland, the anti-shock protest was organized by MindFreedom Ireland. These major protests were led by women survivors and human rights activists; their powerful theme and demand was and still is Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers; it was this demand on Mother’s Day in 2008 when more anti-shock protests were held in Ottawa, Montreal, and Ireland. Women were the chief organizers and featured speakers; they undoubtedly will be this year when more protests are held in Toronto, Montreal and Cork, Ireland. The growth of these protests and demands to ban electroshock means that electroshock resistance is going global, it means that we are witnessing an international movement against electroshock and psychiatric oppression and for human rights. This is very empowering, a tribute to all women survivors, antipsychiatry activists and feminists who have courageously broken their silence, spoken out and acted out against electroshock and psychiatric oppression of women.
For more information on electroshock and the struggles to ban it, check out these websites:http://capa.oise.utoronto.ca, icbe.wordress.com, and endofshock.com
This is Don Weitz thanking you for listening to this special edition of Antipsychiatry Radio-in-exile. My special thanks to Ron Nelson and Dale Whitmore for their technical support; Susy Pocasangre, Stephanie Gude and Carmelle Wolfson who worked hard and long to organize all the special programs and this empowering broadcast, and the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault that endorses TAKE BACK OUR RADIO.
Stay tuned for more special International Women’s Day programming.
March 4, 2009
Attention: Opinion Page Editor The Toronto Star
NCR: another psychiatry-and-state fraud and deception
Re the recent trial of Vincent Li, I strongly oppose the legal defence of “not criminally responsible” (NCR) –the old ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ defence. Why? Because this legal defence perpetuates the myth and fraud of “mental illness”, and allows the “mentally ill” accused person to avoid responsibility for his/her actions and consequences. After Vincent Li was accused of murder and labeled “mentally ill” or “schizophrenic” — he beheaded Tim McLean in an unprovoked attack on a greyhound bus — Li, his lawyer & the psychiatrists (“mental health experts”) are now hyping the NCR defence in court to prevent sentencing him to prison. If the judge accepts the “expert” testimony of the psychiatrists and NCR defence, Li will still be sentenced to prison, a maximum-security psychoprison (probably Oak Ridge/Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre in Ontario) where he will be locked up indefinitely, forcibly drugged with neuroleptics, and chemically lobotomized .
In a fast-tracked court trial (3 -4 days ) in Winnipeg, Vincent Li was sentenced indefinitely to a psychoprison after his lawyer, the prosecution (“the crown”), and 2 psychiatrists, who gave “identical testimony”, conspired to to urge the discredited and illogical NCR defence and promote the myths of “schizophrenia”/”mental illness”. The NCR is just a sanitized version of the old “not guilty by reason of insanity” defence. Like anybody else who kills, injures or harms another person, Li should be held responsible for his actions. Hearing voices or no voices,”mentally ill” or “sane”, Li had to know that he was killing (‘beheading’) another person. Li should have been criminally charged with murder. In the psychoprison, the psychiatrist-jailers will have another “mentally ill” human guinea pig whom they can torture and destroy with impunity with brain-damaging “antipsychotics” and other “safe and effective treatment”.
In the name of “mental health”, who benefits? Psychiatry and Big Pharma. Who suffers? Truth and justice.
Biographical note: Don Weitz is a psychiatric survivor, co-editor of Shrink Resistant: the struggle against psychiatry in Canada, and social justice activist in Toronto.
Lutheran Social Services of America/LSSA
Dear Mr. Jonsgaard,
Of behalf of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA), we are writing to you re the legal case of Mr. Ray Sandford. We understand that your social services organization has been appointed general guardian for Mr. Sandford, and that Ms. Tonya Wilhelm, a staff or volunteer worker with LSSA, has been assigned his “guardian ad litem.” We also understand that Mr. Sandford has been court-ordered to undergo electroshock (“ECT”) on a weekly or bi-weekly basis against his will, and that he is appealing this forced treatment. Further, we understand that Mr. Sandford has already undergone 37 or 38 electroshocks and that more will be administered –over his expressed and repeated refusals.
One of CAPA’s top priority issues is organizing against electroshock and working toward a universal ban. We therefore are very concerned whenever people are forced to undergo a psychiatric procedure like electroshock—without informed consent. We wish to point out that we are credible critics of electroshock and very knowledgeable about its many health risks including permanent memory loss and brain damage. We therefore strongly and publicly oppose electroshock. In our collective judgement, forcibly shocking Mr. Sandford constitutes assault, a serious violation of his human rights. Although LSSA may have no direct role or authority re Mr. Sandford’s electroshocks and court appeal, it has chosen to be remain silent, despite the fact that Mr. Sandford has given permission to human rights and advocacy organizations to publicize his situation
Although LSSA may not be a participant or have no authority to intervene in Mr. Sandford’s court case, as a progressive and religious organization it has a moral and public responsibility to speak out on ethics and human rights issues. It is our judgement that electroshock, particularly forced electroshock, is a serious violation of medical ethics and Ray Sandford’s human rights. In this light, we urge the LSSA to at least question the morality of using the authority and police powers of Minnesota to force a vulnerable citizen like Ray Sandford to undergo electroshock. We point out that this so-called “safe, effective, and lifesaving treatment” has permanently damaged the lives and careers of many of our relatives, friends and colleagues in Canada, the United States and other countries. We fear that electroshock has already damaged Mr. Sandford’s brain and destroyed his life. (See websites http://capa.oise.utoronto.ca, http://endofshock.com)
We look forward to your reply.
Dr. Bonnie Burstow, Chair, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA)
Shaindl Diamond, PhD, Candidate, Dept of Counselling Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Member of CAPA
Mel Starkman, Member of CAPA
Don Weitz, Member of CAPA
Executive Committee, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault
C: Bishop Mark S. Hanson, Ecumenical Lutheran Church of America/ELCA
Miriam L. Woolbert, Ecumenical Lutheran Church of America/ELCA,
Please reply to: Dr. Bonnie Burstow – firstname.lastname@example.org
I posted my CAPA award and announced it on a high traffic website called ottawastart.com based in Ottawa.
Please look at the press release which says “Sue Clark-Wittenberg receives an award in Toronto.
I copied it here from the website which is below.
take care, Sue
11 • POSTED ON December 04, 2008
Sue Clark-Wittenberg receives an award in Toronto
Posted by Sue Clark-Wittenberg Subscribe to the OttawaStart RSS Feed for instant news updates.
Sue Clark-Wittenberg got an award from the group “Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) on September 27, 2008 in Toronto. The award was for “Lifetime Antipsychiatry Activism”
Sue Clark-Wittenberg an activist in Ottawa received an award from the group called “Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) in Toronto on September 27, 2008. The award was for “Lifetime Antipsychiatry Activism”. CAPA websites: capa.oise.utoronto.ca, capacanada.wordpress.com
Sue is a former psychiatric patient. Sue has been free of psychiatry since 1990.
Currently, Sue is the director of the International Campaign to Ban Electroshock (ICBE) website URL: icbe.wordpress.com
Sue and her husband Steven Wittenberg founded the ICBE in 2007. The ICBE will lobby all governments worldwide to ban electroshock.
130 hospital in Canada give electroshock also known as ECT, shock, shock therapy and electroconvulsive therapy.
This year the ICBE held a successful protest against electroshock on Parliament Hill on May 14th. Every year the ICBE will hold a similar protest every Mother’s Day on Parliament Hill at 1 p.m.
Websites on ECT:
breggin.com, ect.org, mindfreedom.org, capa.oise.utoronto.ca, endofshock.com, icbe.wordpress.com, banshock.org, psychrights.org
Contact Sue: email@example.com or call her at:
November 15, 2008
Chair, Human Rights Committee
Office of the High Commission on Human Rights
I am forwarding the letter below, initially addressed to Mr.Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, for your information and possible action. It concerns the forced electroshocking of Mr. Ray Sandford, a psychiatric outpatient in Minnesota. Despite his repeated refusal, Mr. Sandford has been court-ordered to submit to the memory-destroying, brain-damaging psychiatric procedure of electroshock (“electroconvulsive therapy” or “ECT”). Together with many other psychiatric survivors and human rights activists, I am absolutely convinced that the health, safety and human rights of Mr. Sandford and thousands of other citizens are being seriously and repeatedly violated by physicians, particularly psychiatrists, as well as Governor Pawlenty and the State of Minnesota.
I would appreciate knowing if the Human Rights Committee considers electroshock, particularly forced electroshock, a form of torture, a serious human rights violation. Many of us psychiatric survivors and human rights activists believe it is. For over twenty-five (25) years, hundreds, if not thousands, of electroshock survivors, other psychiatric survivors, human rights activists, health professionals including several psychiatrists and neurologists, and concerned citizens have publicly and frequently protested against electroshock. We have repeatedly urged a total and immediate ban on electroshock in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand.
To date, I have not received a reply from Governor Pawlenty. Please acknowledge receipt of my letter, I look forward to your reply.
Executive Member, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault – http://capa.oise.utoronto.ca
1401-38 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto,Ontario M4R 2G3 Canada
November 12, 2008
Governor Tim Pawlenty
State of Minnesota
Dear Governor Pawlenty,
As an antipsychiatry activist and psychiatric survivor of insulin shock treatment many years ago in Massachusetts, I am writng to strongly protest against the forced electroshock (“ECT”) inflicted on 54-year old Ray Sandford in Minnesota. I understand Mr. Sandford is being forcibly taken (“escorted”) to Mercy Hospital (“Mercy”?) where he is being shocked against his will or without consent every Wednesday morning. Given the fact that psychiatrists and other doctors do not inform patients about the common and severe risks of permanent memory loss and brain damage, and given the fact that psychiatrists and other doctors frequently use blackmail or threats and intimidation to get “ECT” patients to consent, no person can possibly give “voluntary and informed consent” to electroshock. Informed consent in the “mental health system” is a compete myth, a sham
Electroshock itself is a traumatic and horrific psychiatric procedure (not “treatment”); it always causes some degree of brain-damage including permanent memory loss. After having listened to the personal and public testimonies of numerous shock survivors in Canada and the United States and after having read many independent studies of electroshock in the medical-psychiatric literature during the last 30 years, there is absolutely no doubt that electroshock is inherently destructive, inhumane and unethical; the use of force is particularly torturous. State-sanctioned use of police powers to inflict electroshock on Mr.Sandford against his will – and inflicted on any other US citizen for that matter – is a serious violation of his constitutional and human rights, a serious violation of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture, and a serious violation of Article 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that specifically prohibits any “cruel and unusual treatment or degrading punishment, or torture”.
Thousands of shock survivors, including myself, advocacy and human rights organizations and several psychiatrists and neurologists in the United States and other countries have advocated a total ban on electroshock. Some states in your country have restricted the use of electroshock – for example, Texas, California and Oregon. Why not Minnesota?
I am copying this to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture, other international human rights bodies, advocacy organizations of psychiatric survivors, several concerned psychiatrists and neurologists, and the media.
In the interests of Mr Sandford’s health, safety and human rights, I urge you to use your office and power as Governor to stop electroshocking Ray Sandford now.
Stop state-sanctioned torture in Minnesota!
I look forward to your reply.
Executive member, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault – http://capa.oise.utoronto.ca
1401-38 Orchard View Blvd., Toronto, Ontario M4R 2G3
c: MindFreedom International
United Nations, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Committee Against Torture
Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault
National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy
Editor-in-Chief, The New York Times
Shock survivor-activist-author Linda Andre plans to come to Toronto next year- I definitely will read her book Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment I hope many others also read her book
Begin forwarded message:
From: Rob Wipond
Date: October 7, 2008 2:02:47 PM EDT (CA)
Subject: [can-survive] ECT Book: doctors of deception
This one’s looking like it’ll be good…
Doctors of Deception
Subtitle: What They Don’t Want You to Know about Shock Treatment
Author: Linda Andre
Subject: Health and Medicine
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-4441-0
Pages: 336 pages
Publication Date: February 2009
Praise for Doctors of Deception
“This book is absolutely fascinating and extraordinarily well-written. It is a major contribution to the current literature.”
—Michael Perlin, professor of law, New York Law School
“Linda Andre’s book is both a powerful memoir of her own experience as an ECT “patient” and a documented account of the underbelly of the ‘shock industry.’ It raises profound questions about ECT that both psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health—if they want to be honest with the American public—desperately need to address.”
—Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill
“For many years, activist and writer Linda Andre has been forcefully and cogently examining the reigning (and mostly unchallenged) professed claims and practices of our medical establishment’s wizards of shock therapy. In this thoroughly-researched, pathbreaking, and essential book, the author undraws the curtains that have for too long cloaked these claims, practices, and wizards. It is a work of courage, heart, and brains”-Jonathan Cott, author of On the Sea of Memory
Mechanisms and standards exist to safeguard the health and welfare of the patient, but for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)—used to treat depression and other mental illnesses—such approval methods have failed. Prescribed to thousands over the years, public relations as opposed to medical trials have paved the way for this popular yet dangerous and controversial treatment option.
Doctors of Deception is a revealing history of ECT (or shock therapy) in the United States, told here for the first time. Through the examination of court records, medical data, FDA reports, industry claims, her own experience as a patient of shock therapy, and the stories of others, Andre exposes tactics used by the industry to promote ECT as a responsible treatment when all the scientific evidence suggested otherwise.
As early as the 1940s, scientific literature began reporting incidences of human and animal brain damage resulting from ECT. Despite practitioner modifications, deleterious effects on memory and cognition persisted. Rather than discontinue use of ECT, the $5-billion-per-year shock industry crafted a public relations campaign to improve ECT’s image. During the 1970s and 1980s, psychiatry’s PR efforts misled the government, the public, and the media into believing that ECT had made a comeback and was safe.
Andre carefully intertwines stories of ECT survivors and activists with legal, ethical, and scientific arguments to address issues of patient rights and psychiatric treatment. Echoing current debates about the use of psychopharmaceutical interventions shown to have debilitating side-effects, she candidly presents ECT as a problematic therapy demanding greater scrutiny, tighter control, and full disclosure about its long-term cognitive effects.
About the Author:
Linda Andre is a writer, activist, and the director of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry. Since receiving ECT in the early 1980s, she has been an advocate for the human and civil rights of psychiatrically labelled people, particularly the right to truthful informed consent. She has been interviewed by numerous publications and media such as 20/20, The New York Times, and the Washington Post.
RobWipond.com Culturally-critical commentary, journalism and satire
Canadian Mindscape Monitor Daily monitoring and critical analysis of current events, media coverage and scientific research surrounding “mental health” issues in Canada and globally.
Rob Wipond’s Satires on YouTube
Scientific evidence shows that ECT is ineffective and damages patients
Dublin, 2 October 2008 — The Wellbeing Foundation today published on its website a series of scientific papers which clearly demonstrate both the ineffectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and that it causes both short and long term cognitive and intellectual damage to those who are given it.
Last June two Green Party senators, Deirdre de Burca and Dan Boyle, together with independent senator David Norris, introduced a Bill to ban the use of involuntary electroshock ‘therapy’. A debate began. Since then, the usual crew of institutional psychiatrists in Ireland have defended the use of ECT and have again pronounced it to be both safe, with no long term effects, and effective. They are either ignorant or lying, as the evidence abounds that ECT causes severe damage to patients, up to and including death (from shock-induced heart attack) and is ineffective in the longer term.
As a public service and to contribute some facts and evidence to the debate, the Wellbeing Foundation decided to re-publish this selection of peer-reviewed scientific papers from prestigious medical journals. The papers can be downloaded in pdf form direct from our website, http://www.wellbeingfoundation.com.
ECT is no therapy at all. That is the clear conclusion from research carried out by leading figures in the field.
Anti-ECT campaigners, whether lay people or qualified doctors, have been vilified by certain supporters of ECT in the psychiatric profession and accused of producing no evidence to support their claims that ECT is both damaging and ineffective. Here, then, is that evidence, and it is safe to say that this evidence comes from professionals far more eminent in their field than any of our critics here in Ireland.
Most of this evidence has been available to professionals and the curious public for over a year. For example, the first scientific paper we reproduce, ‘The Cognitive Effects of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Community Settings’, was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2007. One dates from 1998, the others from 2005, 2006 and again 2007. One might be tempted to think, from the subsequent contributions by certain Irish psychiatrists, that the latter are ignorant of this important research or have not read and evaluated it.
One of the notable things about the the first paper mentioned is that its lead author, Harold J Sackheim, is a prominent advocate of the medical model and of the school of biological psychiatry, a school whose very basis we question. Dr Sackheim has for many years been a leading advocate of ECT. Yet in this paper he comes as close as one could expect to a public recantation of his previous views. Dr Sackheim, to his credit, has led a team which collected evidence, solid, empirical evidence, of the cognitive impairments (read, memory loss and intellectual impairment) caused by ECT even in its ‘least worst’ form. And Dr Sackheim has taken account of that evidence — he now rejects, at the very least, the widespread use of ECT, and more particularly the use of most forms of ECT (certainly those widely used here in Ireland).
This gamekeeper has turned poacher. Would that his Irish colleagues take note, and even follow suit.
The other papers are as valuable, and all give evidence supporting and bolstering our view that ECT is medically dangerous and should be banned. The earliest is Dr Peter Breggin’s famous study from 1998, ‘Electroshock: scientiﬁc, ethical, and political issues’, published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine .
‘Patients’ perspectives on electroconvulsive therapy: a systematic review’ was published in the British Medical Journal in January 2005; ‘Memory and cognitive effects of ECT: informing and assessing patients’ in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment’ in 2006; ‘Cognitive rehabilitation: assessment and treatment of persistent memory impairments following ECT’ in the same journal in 2007; and we include, for its inherent interest and for providing some profound insights by those on the sharp end, ‘The Electroshock Quotationary’ by Leonard Roy Frank, published in June 2006.
Most institutional psychiatrists in Ireland have been too fond of claiming that their profession is united in advocating ECT and in rejecting accusations that it damages mental and intellectual functioning in several serious ways. This is simply not true: their profession, at least elsewhere, is seriously divided on this issue and cannot agree either on the efficacy of ECT or its serious effects. The evidence is clear.
In such circumstances, the politicians who will shortly return to the debate on the three senators’ Bill to ban involuntary electroshock must take the approach of considering primarily the political, ethical and human rights aspects of the current ECT regime in our mental health system and avoid the medical debate.
Even if they were to conduct hearings into the medical arguments, with evidence from all camps (including patient groups and ‘consumer’ advocates), it would most likely be fruitless — a rabbit hole of metaphysical claim and counter-claim from which they might not ever return.
The issue should be decided on one criterion — do current rules on the administration of ECT conform even to the minimum standards required to uphold the human rights of the patient? The answer to this is clearly NO — and on that basis, and that basis alone, the senators’ Bill should be passed into law.
For more information or to arrange interviews with a Wellbeing representative, contact Basil Miller (086 8182082).
The scientific papers can be downloaded direct from the home page of our website.
Head of communications
the wellbeing foundation
2 Eden Park
http://www.ect.org/doctor-loses-job-after-electroshock-controversy/ (see ect.org site)
In 2001, psychiatrist Jaime Paredes was forced to resign from Vancouver’s Riverview Hospital after courageously exposing the fact that large numbers of elderly patients were electroshocked at that hospital for several years. His critical letter to the B.C. Ministry of Health sparked an “independent” investigation, which was another government whitewash; the B.C. report proposed only cosmetic-technical changes in “ECT”; it never questioned the ethics of shocking elderly people or electroshock and its brain-damaging effects itself. Although fewer elderly patients may be shocked at Riverview today, in 2007 (according to B.C.Ministry of Health statistics) 40% of patients shocked were 65 years and older, 85 were women in their 80s or 90s. The B.C. Ministry of Health’s statistics also reveal that at least 2 times as many women as men have been shocked for many years – a common finding or ratio in other provinces and states where “ECT” is administered. Electroshock is still administered in Riverview and hundreds of other hospitals across Canada and the United States.
To date, no other Canadian psychiatrist, neurologist, or medical doctor has publicly criticized electroshock, none has called for a moratorium or ban., and no provincial or territorial government has called for public hearings.