A Shocking Indifference

Why is it that the controversial issue of Electro Convulsive Therapy (Electroshock) does not receive more media attention?

Unfortunately, and possibly due to a subtle, lingering prejudice, mental patients don’t ordinarily command much media or political respect in general.  The stigmatising effect of being labelled ‘mentally ill’ means that their every utterance is tacitly assumed to be suspect or invalid.  Their protests about their experiences and stories of personal abuse are ignored.  Their perspectives are discounted or dismissed out of hand. Coercive measures against them are accepted as probably necessary and ‘in their best interests’.  Basically mental illness is an uncomfortable subject area with an automatic assumption, however erroneous, of incompetence, irrationality and even violence.

No other minority group in the western world is so totally abandoned by the normal societal impulses toward common sense and decency. Perhaps the situation is best stated in the “Foucalt Tribunal Indicts Psychiatry” (http://www.oikos.org/ectcomments2.htm):“Functioning as an arm of the state and with state powers, psychiatry has created a category of subhuman from whom every protection and right is withdrawn.”

The most hardened of criminals, including murderers and paedophiles, can only be incarcerated against their will when they have been found guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ of a crime by a court of law.  A mental health patient is not deemed to be worthy of the same rights.  No proof has to exist; no prior conduct even has to be demonstrated.  If, ‘in the opinion’ of psychiatrists, a person might ‘possibly’ do ‘something’, then that is sufficient legal basis to incarcerate them.  Mental health patients can be, and are, held against their will and subjected to involuntary ‘treatments’ based upon the arbitrary whim of psychiatrists.  The most controversial of these ‘treatments’ is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), otherwise known as Electroshock.

Electroshock is a psychiatric procedure whereby between 75 and 470 volts are briefly applied to the brain with the aim of producing a grand mal seizure.  The current that operates normally within a human brain is of the magnitude of millivolts (thousandths of a volt).  It does not take a great deal of imagination to understand the results of passing between 75 and 470 volts through such a delicate mechanism.  Frank Vertosick a US neurosurgeon equated ECT to “repairing a computer with a chainsaw”.  The trauma to the body is such that patients have to be given muscle relaxants to avoid the risk of the procedure breaking their backs and other bones.

There are at least nine independent organizations of victims of ECT in the English speaking world alone devoted to the dissemination of an anti-ECT message. Their web sites are full of distressing personal testimonials from people whose lives have been ruined by ECT.  Can you imagine a situation whereby ex-patients from conventional medical procedures would form themselves into organizations to protect others from that which they had received themselves?  Can you imagine the scenario whereby people were so horrified by the damage done to themselves that they would set up organizations to try to protect others from the same fate?  In conventional medicine this situation would create a furore such that the treatment would be, at the very least, thoroughly investigated, and almost certainly banned.  …


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