In May 1974, upon discovering that psychiatrists at San Francisco’s Langley Porter
Neuropsychiatric Institute, one of California’s best known psychiatric facilities, was
using electroshock on non-consenting and misinformed persons, NAPA asked Langley
Porter for information about its practices and the opportunity to discuss them publicly
with members of its staff. When Langley Porter failed to respond satisfactorily, NAPA
carried out a series of protest demonstrations and rallies on the doorsteps of the
institute for the remainder of the year. During this period media coverage intensified
and 30 community-based organizations and several elected officials wrote letters
supporting NAPA’s demand for a public inquiry. In January 1975, the San Francisco
Mental Health Advisory Board (appointed by the county’s Board of Supervisors) held a
public hearing on the practice of electroshock not just at Langley Porter but at other
psychiatric facilities in the city as well. Wade Hudson, representing NAPA, and
physicians, both opposed to and in favor of ECT, made presentations followed by
statements, almost all strongly critical of ECT, from a large number of electroshock
survivors who were in the audience.
The controversy caused by the hearing and the preceding events led directly to a
suspension of ECT in the city and county of San Francisco which lasted several years.
LEONARD ROY FRANK (U.S. electroshock survivor and editor).
See Ted Chabasinski’s entry in 1982 below.
1974 — In 1974 the Network Against Psychiatric Assault proposed to California
Assemblyman John Vasconcellos that he introduce legislation affording all mental
patients the right to refuse “chemotherapy” (drug treatment), “shock treatments,” and
“psychosurgery.” Vasconcellos accepted the challenge but soon realized that resistance
from the psychiatric profession would make passage of such a bill virtually impossible.
He then modified the bill so that it would only regulate “convulsive treatment” (meaning
“electroconvulsive treatment” and “insulin coma treatment”) and psychosurgery.
Enacted in 1975, psychiatrists soon judicially challenged the law, which was enjoined by
a superior court judge because parts of it, he said, unconstitutionally restricted the
practice of medicine. After being revised, the law was passed in 1976 and took effect the
next year, thus becoming the first state law to regulate ECT. Since then, more than 30
states have enacted legislation regulating the procedure. Regarding its provisions
concerning ECT, the California law requires that:
A board-certified or board-eligible psychiatrist or neurologist “other than the
patient’s attending or treating physician” must verify that the voluntary patient
“has the capacity to give and has given written informed consent.”
The decision to administer convulsive treatment to an involuntary patient,
including anyone under guardianship or conservatorship, be reviewed by a
committee of two physicians who both agree with the treating physician that “all
reasonable treatment modalities have been carefully considered and that the
treatment is definitely indicated and is the least drastic alternative available for
this patient at this time.”
If an involuntary patient’s attorney (or public defender) believes that the patient
does not have the capacity to give informed consent, a superior court shall be
petitioned to decide the issue. If the court, at an evidentiary hearing, determines
that the patient does not have the capacity to give informed consent, convulsive
treatment may be performed after written informed consent is obtained from the
patient’s responsible relative, guardian, or conservator.
If a voluntary patient’s treating physician or verifying physician believes that the
patient does not have the capacity to give informed consent, a superior court shall
be petitioned to decide the issue, following the same procedure used in the case of
involuntary patients as described in the previous paragraph.
“No convulsive treatment shall be performed if the patient, whether admitted to
the facility as a voluntary or involuntary patient, is deemed to be able to give
informed consent and refuses to do so.”
“Under no circumstance shall convulsive treatment be performed on a minor
under 12 years of age.”
Any physician or facility which administers convulsive treatments shall report
quarterly on the number of persons treated with ECT, the status of such
individuals, the number of individuals treatments administered, age distribution,
sex and race of the patients, number of cardiac arrests, fracture cases, deaths,
patients reporting memory loss, and other related information. “The Director of
Health shall annually submit to the Legislature the accumulation of such
To constitute voluntary informed consent, certain detailed information about the
nature, method, and effects of ECT (listed) must be given to the patient in a clear
and explicit manner and that the State Department of Health shall promulgate a
standard written consent form with all information listed in the law and further
information deemed necessary.
A physician who violates any provision of the law concerning specified legal rights of
mental patients is subject to “a civil penalty of not more than $5,000.” Such violation is
also “a grounds for revocation of license.”
LEONARD ROY FRANK. NAPA’s campaign for human rights in psychiatry riled
more than a few professionals, including ALEXANDER ROGAWSKI, professor of
psychiatry at the University of Southern California School of Medicine and president of
the section on psychiatry of the Los Angeles County Medical Association. He told a
reporter that NAPA was like “a dog that bites on your heels and hinders you in what is
obviously a very important job…. We’ve got enough troubles from the regular sources of
the community. We don’t need these bastards to complicate matters. NAPA is no more
than a fringe organization that continues to hamper our efforts” (quoted in Joy
Horowitz, “Ex-Mental Patients Unite to Help Those Still Held,” Los Angeles Times, 30
See Rusk and Read’s entry in 1975, Ted Chabasinski’s in 1982, and Peter Breggin’s in 1989 below.
1974 — silent too long
time now to speak truth
time now as pendulum crests to swing back
not with like for like
not with weapons used against us
but with conscience call to people
to reveal atrocities we have known
to demand accounting from false healers
in brown shirts under white jackets
Conditioned to/thru brutality
having enstoned their hearts
damned us by inches by miles [opening stanzas]…
we see them on wards
and in isolation
and in treatment rooms
we see them strapped onto beds and tables
writhing and convulsing
in their agony
we hear their pleas for mercy
we feel their pain
and our souls rebel within us
this barbarism must cease [closing stanza].
LEONARD ROY FRANK, “An End to Silence,” Madness Network News, September
1974, published in Frank, ed., The History of Shock Treatment, 1978.
1974 — EST has been described as “… a bogus, barbaric, and destructive weapon…”
(quoted from NAPA literature). This statement is arrogant because the people who write
such things arrogate to themselves high principle, high morality, care and concern for
the rights and welfare of the mentally ill, and infer that we professionals who daily
spend our lives and our skills alleviating suffering are inhuman barbarians who get
sadistic kicks out of punishing and torturing patients.
ALLAN M. GUNN-SMITH (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), letter to Assemblyman
Carmen Perino, 16 December 1974, quoted in Network Against Psychiatric Assault,
“NAPA Notes,” Madness Network News, April 1975. Gunn-Smith, who was Project
Director of the geriatric-psychiatric ward at Stockton State Hospital (California),
acknowledged having administered, during the previous 6 years, more than 4,000
electroconvulsive treatments to about 200 persons mostly between the ages of “65 and
1974 — “You can feel nothing. We will give you a shot.”
Yes, grappling in those starchy gowns,
pulling me past the sheet wall you’ve hung,
hauling, thrashing, begging don’t
oh, please, don’t it hurts I can feel it I do remember —
Shot. Unsmiling head, administrator,
administers the shock,
his face etched in me charge by charge.
“Stop that. It does not hurt. You will not feel it.
Stop fighting us.”
like a wave of spasms
ripples the shock.
GAIL LARRICK (U.S. electroshock survivor), “Shock,” published in Sherry Hirsch et
al., eds., Madness Network News Reader, p. 85, 1974.
Clonotherapy: A Manual for Convulsive Therapies / 1974
1974 — Already things have become clouded
And God how I fear the clouding!
The fearful maze is jumbled and confused
And broken by flashes of half-forgotten glimpses
And a feeling of horror whose source is forgotten
Our treatment is not enough
More trips down that fearful hall
Hard to say how many
And it may not work
The dejection and the agony may continue
Or get worse or return all too soon
There are so many risks
And I have been given no choice
The room is empty now,
But the fear is still there
It lingers there in hazy memories
For those who look at the room empty
And those who have experienced it full.
ANNE MUELLER (U.S. electroshock survivor), “The Room,” Berkeley Community
Health Project Newsletter (California), December 1974.
1974 — Richard H. Trapnell, M.D., chief of the psychiatric ward at San Francisco’s St.
Francis Memorial Hospital, where in 1974 alone 1,373 electroshock treatments were
carried out, in a letter (dated November 21, 1974) to the entire St. Francis medical staff,
found it “deplorable that a small group (referring to NAPA) of ill-informed fanatics
appear to have influenced Assemblyman Vasconcellos in sponsoring AB 4481.” The idea
of ECT, one of the grossest, most violent, dehumanizing techniques ever devised by
man, being used on a wholesale basis in a hospital named after the gentlest of saints is
enough to make you vomit. We’d like to ask Dr. Trapnell if he would have administered
ECT to Francis of Assisi, who at various times during his life manifested such
“symptoms” as hallucinations, exhibitionism, hostility, grandiosity, depression,
withdrawal, raptures, guilt, and delusions, which according to psychiatric ideology
indicate severe “mental illness.”
NETWORK AGAINST PSYCHIATRIC ASSAULT, “NAPA Notes,” Madness
Network News, April 1975.
1974 — Surely shock treatment represents one of those medical miracles that the
Reader’s Digest likes to write about. I think we can consider it a miracle also that it can
survive and continue to serve in spite of all the resolute opposition to it from so many
ROBERT PECK (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), The Miracle of Shock Treatment, ch.
1974 — When pain is a factor in certain other conditions of a chronic nature that have
not responded to anything else, such as severe backaches, I have seen complete cures
from shock treatment [ECT]. I have seen a miraculous result in a causalgia case treated
by another psychiatrist with shock treatment. Another psychiatrist friend of mine cured
a life-threatening case of Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
In my own experience I have seen such psychosomatic disorders as ulcers, spastic
and ulcerative colitis, asthma, psoriasis, trigonitis, all respond to shock treatment with
ROBERT PECK, The Miracle of Shock Treatment, ch. 4, 1974. Peck also found that
ECT was “a good treatment for intractable pain such as is found in cancer patients.”
1974 — I do not know any formal use of [shock treatment] in brain washing [sic] but it
seems possible it could be so used. One can conjure up an image of large groups of
dissidents in a police state being kept in a contented state of apathy by shock treatment.
ROBERT PECK, The Miracle of Shock Treatment, ch. 8, 1974.
1974 — There exists some feeling among psychiatrists, myself included, that best results
in shock treatments correlate with greatest amount of organicity (memory defect).
ROBERT PECK, The Miracle of Shock Treatment, ch. 9, 1974.
1974 — [The old personality] was dead. Destroyed by order of the court, enforced by the
transmission of high-voltage alternating current through the lobes of his brain.
Approximately 800 mills of amperage at durations of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds had been
applied on twenty-eight consecutive occasions, in a process known technologically as
“Annihilation ECS” [ECT]. A whole personality had been liquidated without a trace in a
technologically faultless act that has defined our relationship ever since. I have never
met him. Never will.
ROBERT M. PIRSIG (U.S. electroshock survivor and writer), Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance, ch. 7, 1974.
See Ugo Cerletti’s entry in 1942 above.
1974 — Interviewer: You say you’d rather have a lobotomy than electroconvulsive
shock? Do you have some pretty solid ideas about what electroconvulsive shock does?
Pribram: No — I just know what the brain looks like after a series of shocks — and
it’s not very pleasant to look at. Not that it can’t be effective as a treatment if carefully
used. The same is true of psychosurgery…. I would try electrical stimulation of the brain
[ECT] first, rather than cutting, because I think that the same results can be obtained.
KARL PRIBRAM (U.S. psychologist, psychiatrist, and psychosurgeon), “From
Lobotomy to Physics to Freud… an Interview with Karl Pribram,” APA Monitor (“A
Publication of the American Psychological Association”), September-October 1974. In
the interview, Pribram described one of “the ethical problems” he encountered as a
researcher for “the Connecticut lobotomy project” at Yale University during the 1940s:
“We had a young lady whom we had studied very intensely prior to lobotomy. Of course,
with all the attention and everything that we gave to this patient, she got well. And so
the question was: What do we do now? So I said, ‘It’s very obvious. Now we send her
home.’ But I was voted down, essentially. They decided to do the lobotomy anyway
because all the studies had been done.”
Stills / Retna
1974 — All your two-bit psychiatrists
Are giving you electroshock
They said, they’d let you live at home with mom and dad
Instead of mental hospitals
But every time you tried to read a book
You couldn’t get to page 17
‘cause you forgot where you were
So you couldn’t even read.
LOU REED (U.S. electroshock survivor, songwriter, and performer), “Kill Your Sons”
(song), 1974. Reed was electroshocked in 1961 at the age of 17.
1974 — The central idea of ELT is the selective loosening and erasure of traumatic and
bad memories of a given personality pattern for the purpose of immediate
reprogramming so the patient can develop into a new personality.
H. C. TIEN (Chinese-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “100 Questions and Answers
on ELT: The Electrolytic Therapy of Psychosynthesis,” World Journal of
Psychosynthesis, February 1974. In the same article Tien, who introduced ELT in 1962,
described the procedure as a form of “therapeutic programming” that combines ECT
with psychotherapy, long-term family therapy, T.V. monitoring, bottle-feeding, and
“transnomation” (“therapeutic name-change”). Following an ECT treatment, “The
patient is prepared and transferred in the infant-like state for immediate
reprogramming in the family session. The patient is usually transferred on cart to a
private bedroom for the family session [in which] the patient is actually bottle-fed by a
relative, parent or spouse in order to re-establish rapport and a new consciousness with
significant others in the family…. Most patients accept best the formula of half-chocolate
and half-white milk. Funny enough. One of the patients was said to be ‘allergic to
chocolate’ milk by his mother, but his wife programmed him to like chocolate milk
during ELT: he now drinks chocolate milk.” Tien asserted that there was “no going back”
to traditional ECT in treating “involutional depression,” because “patients are often left
alone and confused after shock treatment without the love of a relative or the
personalized attention of the wife or husband or of a parent. Whereas in ELT, the
patient and his family work together, such that E stands for Electricity, L stands for Love
and E + L = T, therapy!” And there you have it — ELT, electrolove therapy!
1973-1974 — According to information that has been submitted to [Massachusetts’s
Mental Health Department] by the hospitals themselves, from April 1973 through April
1974, more than 28 percent of all patients admitted to private mental hospitals [in
Massachusetts] were given shock therapy.
RICHARD GAINES (U.S. journalist), “Electric Shock ‘Therapy’ Still Used to Excess,”
Boston Phoenix, 3 June 1975.
1975 — The Academy Award winning film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was
released. Based on Ken Kesey’s novel, one horrific scene shows Randle Patrick
McMurphy, the film’s heroic rebel played by Jack Nicholson, undergoing “unmodified”
electroshock, i.e., without an anesthetic and muscle relaxant. The psychiatrists’ basic
response to the bad publicity generated by the film was to say, “We don’t do it that way
See Ken Kesey’s two entries in 1962 above.
1975 — Recent memory loss [caused by ECT] could be compared to erasing a tape
ROBERT E. ARNOT (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Observations on the Effects of
Electric Convulsive Treatment in Man — Psychological,” Diseases of the Nervous
System, September 1975. Arnot’s choice of metaphor may have been influenced by
reports in the media around the time of his writing the article that 18 minutes of
President Richard Nixon’s secretly recorded White House tapes had been mysteriously
1975 — Obviously if one is committed exclusively to psychotherapy, then the memory
loss produced by the E.C.T is undesirable, because the patient may not recall the
symptoms or the problems and conflicts that theoretically may have been part of the
cause of the illness.
Actually, in the author’s opinion, the recent memory loss is beneficial. The patient
gains from not recalling the psychotic episode and delusional material. This material is,
I believe, like a nightmare that hangs over the rest of the patient’s life if he remembers
it. If the memory of the illness is erased, I personally think that the patient can attain a
better level of adjustment and recovery than if E.C.T is not used and if he improves, for
example, with psychotropic drugs where the memory of the psychotic episode is still
The mood returns to normal and remains there even after the series of E.C.T. is
completed so that the effect is not just transitory. For the treating psychiatrist the
appearance of the smiling, happy patient, who was formerly sad and dejected, is a very
satisfactory [sic] experience. Likewise, the removal of the excessive demands of the
formerly manic patient is for the psychiatrist a relief….
During the course of E.C.T., particularly between the fourth and eighth [sic], the level
of anxiety is often markedly increased and may sometimes be accompanied by an
apparent state of confusion…. The patient may say that he is being made worse and
insist that the treatments be discontinued. But, for a satisfactory result, it is important
to continue the ECT through this phase until the excessive anxiety subsides. The
concomitant use of major and minor tranquilizers also helps through this phase.
ROBERT E. ARNOT, “Observations on the Effects of Electric Convulsive Treatment in
Man — Psychological,” Diseases of the Nervous System, September 1975.
1975 — In former times, “classical” shock treatments commonly caused bone fractures
among those racked by the violent physical convulsions. Although roughly 10 percent of
today’s patients still get such unmodified ECT, most now first receive a sleep-inducing
barbiturate like sodium pentothal, and the muscle-paralyzing agent succinylcholine, or
Anectine. While an electrical storm rages unabated in the brain, these drugs suppress its
outward manifestations, sparing witnesses the terrifying spectacle the body’s violent
These “improvements” are like the flowers planted at Buchenwald. Besides, they
create their own risks, and don’t always work. The muscle paralyzer can cause prolonged
failure to breathe and cardiac shock. The paralysis may also intensify the horror of the
While barbiturates make for a smoother trip into unconsciousness, they also increase
the chances of death by choking. Although they do produce sleep, they do not bring a
complete loss of feeling. Among former ECT patients I interviewed, many could recall
the instant of shock itself, even though unable to recall surrounding events. One young
man reported: “That pain went right through your head. All you’re aware of is this
jolting pain going through your mind like an electric crowbar.”
JOHN FRIEDBERG (U.S. neurologist), “Let’s Stop Blasting the Brain,” Psychology
Today, August 1975.
1975 — I open my mouth and the scream surrounds me. My body a lurch and a scream
of pain. I am impaled on a pain. A firecracker, pain and lights, burning, screaming, my
bones and my flesh. I am on fire. Shorter than a second. The fragments of a bomb sear
my body. Blue-white lights, fiercer than God, going through me, my body, poor body, a
contortion, a convulsion of ripping, searing. Pain incarnate. Branded. I cannot
comprehend. Burning, burning, my fingers and toes, my limbs rigid with pain, stretched
longer than the night. Shooting, shooting again, my body is charred. No breath.
Hiroshima. The living dead.
JANET GOTKIN (U.S. electroshock survivor, writer, and researcher), Too Much
Anger, Too Many Tears: A Personal Triumph Over Psychiatry, pt. 1 (“Franklin Central
Hospital”), 1975. Gotkin underwent 100 electroshocks in the early 1970s.
See Gotkin’s entry in 1985 below.
1975 — That night I dreamed I was being electrocuted. Again I felt the white-hot shocks
screech through my body and I woke up screaming.
“Why Janet, what is the matter with you?”
“They’re trying to kill me, Miss Jones.”…
I wondered when they would be over, these ritual burnings. The pain, I would never
survive the searing pain.
“Paranoid delusions,” they wrote on my chart. “She thinks there is a conspiracy to kill
her by electrocution.”
JANET GOTKIN, Too Much Anger, Too Many Tears: A Personal Triumph Over
Psychiatry, pt. 1 (“Franklin Central Hospital”), 1975.
1975 — Multiple monitored electroconvulsive treatment [MMECT] appears to be a safe,
effective procedure for use in patients with depressive psychosis and acute
schizophrenia who do not respond to psychotropic drugs, Dr. Charles Goldfarb said at
the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.
The procedure, which consists of the administration of multiple grand mal seizures at
one or more treatment sessions, monitored on EEG and ECG, should be used in more
psychiatric facilities, said Dr. Goldfarb, Department of Psychiatry, New Jersey Medical
School, Newark [opening paragraphs]….
As many as 18 MMECT treatments can be given at the same session “without
deleterious effect,” he [said].
G. H. GROSSER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist) et al., “The regulation of
Electroconvulsive Treatment in Massachusetts: A Follow-Up,” Massachusetts Journal
of Mental Health, vol. 5, 1975. Goldfarb said that “a total of 35 seizures were given in
60-minute periods on 2 consecutive days — 17 the first day and 18 the second — to” an
“acute, catatonic schizophrenic patient” who was in a “hypokinetic, stuporous state.”
1975 — A way of administering electroconvulsive therapy so that the shock reaches a
fully conscious patient at the same time his most disturbing thoughts are present in the
“mind’s eye” has produced dramatic improvement in some previously hopeless cases,
Dr. Richard D. Rubin said at the silver anniversary meeting of the Canadian Psychiatric
“One case was that of a fireman whose particular hallucination was that he talked to
Jesus Christ. I sat by his bed for 3 hours, waiting wired up throughout this time, a
syringe of succinylcholine [a muscle relaxant] inserted in a vein, and my finger resting
near the button.
“When his hallucination finally occurred, the 40 mg. of succinylcholine was injected
to prevent risk of fracture and, at the very instant fasciculation [twitching] was
observed, the ECT was administered.”
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE, “ECT Timed with Disturbing
Thoughts,” Clinical Psychiatry News, December 1975.
1975 — The three Alabama physicians and the non-physician superintendent at Bryce
Hospital who were cited for civil and criminal contempt in the Wyatt case for failure to
follow court-ordered guidelines in the administration of ECT have been found not guilty
of the charges. However, the court did find that “each instance in which ECT was
administered to an involuntary patient at Bryce Hospital without that patient’s own
express [sic] and informed consent constituted a clear and direct violation of Standard
9” of the court’s 1972 order.
Of the seven patients receiving ECT following the court’s decree, only one, according
to the court’s findings on the contempt charges, possible gave the proper consent. In all
seven cases, the electroconvulsive therapy was administered by F. N. Codina, M.D., one
of the named defendants. The other three named defendants were James C. Thompson,
M.D., James E. Morris, M.D., and Rod Clelland [opening paragraphs]….
It was on the basis of relying on the hospital’s policy, rather than the court’s decree,
that Codina, acting, according to the court’s opinion, “reasonably and in good faith”
administered ECT to patients whose condition, in his judgment, warranted such
“Criminal contempt requires proof of both a contemptuous act and a wrongful,
contumacious state of mind,” noted U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson, stating further
that “a finding that the offending act was willfully performed does not necessarily
indicate that the accused possessed the contumacious intent which is an element of
Alan A. Stone, M.D., chairman of APA’s Commission on Judicial Action, felt that “we
were extremely fortunate” in receiving such a lenient ruling from Judge Johnson. He
said, “The judge’s opinion made it clear that he was concerned, in my opinion, about
driving doctors out of the state institutions. He seemed to have bent over backward in
emphasizing that there was neither the intent for criminal contempt nor any damages to
anyone for civil contempt; this certainly was the most generous interpretation.”
PSYCHIATRIC NEWS, “Alabama MDs Acquitted of Contempt Charges,” 15 October
1975 — The abuses of ECT, as they exist now, seem to fall into two major categories; first
is the financial abuse. ECT in California is extremely lucrative and this encourages its
overuse. In Canada, and especially in Quebec, where the amount of money paid the
psychiatrist for giving ECT has dropped to somewhere between $5 and $10 a treatment
as opposed to the $40 or $50 here, the use of ECT has dropped precipitously. It is no
secret that psychiatrists who heavily use ECT and medications for that matter,
treatments that can be exploited for maximum earnings per hour, frequently have
incomes in excess of $100,000 to $200,000 per year. On the other hand, psychiatrists
who restrict their practices to mild to moderate use of medication, avoidance of
hospitalization and little or no use of ECT rarely have incomes in excess of $60,000….
The other abuse of ECT, less frequent but still present, is its use as punishment for
patients in hospitals. Although not as common as it was previously, ECT is often used as
a threat to induce patients to change their behavior. If this were occurring in prisons,
public outcry would definitely arise and yet the subtle means of control such as telling
an unruly patient “you’re very depressed today and will need some more shock
treatment” must raise questions of cruel and unusual punishment.
THOMAS N. RUSK and RANDOLPH A. READ (U.S. psychiatrists), letter to
California Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, 9 January 1975, “Dear John,” Madness
Network News, April 1975. Vasconcellos’s introduction of legislation regulating the use
of electroshock and psychosurgery (later enacted) had prompted many proponents and
opponents of ECT to write him.
See Leonard Frank’s entry in 1974 above.
1976 — There were 2 deaths among patients who underwent intensive electroshock,
including “a paranoid schizophrenic who had been receiving 10 treatments daily for a
few days” [editor’s summary].
PAUL H. BLACHLY (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Multiple Monitored ECT:
(MMECT),” Convulsive Therapy Bulletin, July 1976.
1976 — Many husbands still beat up their wives…. Other husbands just sign consent for
the “medical treatments” called shock, and let the experts do it for them.
OLLIE MAE BOZARTH (U.S. electroshock survivor), “Shock: The Gentleman’s Way
to Beat Up a Woman,” Madness Network News, June 1976.
1976 — [Among the 183 patients who underwent ECT at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital
in 1971 and 1976, 2 deaths] may have been related to ECT. A 69-year-old woman died 24
hours after her 13th treatment. Postmortem showed a myocardial infarction [heart
attack]. A 76 year-old woman also died 48 hours after her 13th ECT. Postmortem
showed a myocardial infarction 24-48 hours old. Both patients were taking a tricyclic
[antidepressant] drug at the time.
C. P. L. FREEMAN and R. E. KENDELL (British electroshock psychiatrists), “ECT:
I. Patients’ Experiences and Attitudes,” British Journal of Psychiatry, July 1980.
See Leonard Frank’s entry in 1971-1982 below.
1976 — Arguments on practical grounds concerning the use of ECT are clear enough, but
when made publicly, psychiatry becomes vulnerable to criticism as political and
sociological aspects of the problem come into focus. Once in the public domain,
professional control over the basic data asserting no or negligible brain damage is lost
among these other questions and concerns. To the practicing neurologist as well as to
the civil libertarian — the question is not one of large damage, but small or subtle
damage. It is not whether or not one can coffee-klatch or drive a car, but as in the
famous case of Phineas Gage in the 19th century when he returned after the pike injury
to his frontal lobe — the comment was “It’s not Gage.”
ROBERT J. GRIMM (U.S. neurologist), “Statement to APA [American Psychiatric
Association] Task Force on ECT,” unpublished letter (modified by Grimm), 7 May 1976,
published in Leonard Roy Frank, ed., The History of Shock Treatment, 1978.
See Lawrence Olivier’s entry in 1953.
American Journal of Psychiatry / July 1976
1976 — For many hundreds of years one of the favorite treatments in medicine was
bloodletting. We now know that didn’t do anyone any good. It did the doctors good
because they could collect money for it. Now, electroshock is very much like
bloodletting. It is a kind of mindletting in the sense that the person who gets it ends up
with less mind than he had before the treatment. That may seem to be a good effect if
somebody wants him to think less and be less bright and less thoughtful and less
THOMAS S. SZASZ (Hungarian-born U.S. psychiatrist), interview in a 2-part series
on ECT, news program anchored by Tom Snyder, NBC, 20 February 1976.
Leonard Roy Frank at a Network Against Psychiatric Assault (NAPA) de-
monstration protesting the electroshocking of a 17-year-old woman at the
office of psychiatrist Martin J. Rubinstein in Oakland, 26 January 1976
1975-1976 — During July 1, 1975 to July 1, 1976, 12 of the 42 patients (28%) who
underwent modified ECT at New York Hospital developed an arrhythmia or ischemia
following the procedure. In patients with known cardiac disease the complication rate
rose to 70%. This rate may have been even higher had all 17 cardiac patients been
monitored. The four cardiac patients with no complications were not monitored so
arrhythmias could easily have been missed. The 12 patients who developed cardiac
complications of ECT came entirely from this group of 17 cardiac patients….
Four patients developed severe complications following an ECT treatment. E.S.
sustained a cardiopulmonary arrest 45 minutes after her fifth treatment. She expired
despite an intensive resuscitative effort.
JOAN P. GERRING and HELEN M. SHIELDS (U.S. psychiatrists), “The
Identification and Management of Patients with a High Risk for Cardiac Arrhythmias
during Modified ECT,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, April 1982. Elsewhere in the
article, the authors described the 4 patients’ “severe complications” as “life threatening
events.” Of the 12 patients who developed an arrhythmia or ischemia following ECT,
there were 8 women and 4 men. They ranged in age from 58 to 80; half were between
the age of 65 and 69. The patient who died was 71. Both authors were residents in the
Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, New York City, when this
study was conducted.
1977 — Controversies about the use of ECT for treating emotional or behavioral
disorders are not new. Inducing grand mal seizures by passing across the head a current
which would be fatal if applied to the chest, is startling. Thus, psychiatrists do not
immediately view all ECT’s opponents simply as meddlesome cultists; psychiatrists
recognize that the burden of proof properly rests with the proponents of so dramatic a
COLORADO PSYCHIATRIC SOCIETY, “I. Report and Recommendations of a Task
Force of the Colorado Psychiatric Society” (introduction), Electroconvulsive Therapy in
Colorado, October 1977. The Task Force went on to recommend guidelines for ECT in
line with standard psychiatric practice.
1977 — Many people would like to see the use of ECT quietly abandoned. But the
momentum of habit and the inertia of interest rarely yield quietly. We are talking about
a behavior with roots in the age of lobotomy, insulin coma, pentylenetetrazol
convulsions and the final solution; a behavior with powerful rewards of prestige and
high incomes; a behavior invested with the fervor of faith.
JOHN FRIEDBERG (U.S. neurologist), “ECT As a Neurologic Injury,” Psychiatric
Opinion, January/February, 1977.
1977? — A Corvallis psychiatrist intimidated me into receiving electroshock at the
Oregon State Hospital in Salem, telling me it was the “up and coming treatment” for
bipolar disorder. He threatened that if I didn’t go through with it I would be
permanently institutionalized. And I was on court commitment so I didn’t have much
They strapped me down, and when I woke up, I had the worst headache of my life. I
wanted to tear down walls it hurt so bad. Well the “treatment” for that was to put me in
restraints. And here I couldn’t remember my own name for a day, or where I was, why I
was there. I was terrified and confused.
You come out of the blackness of anesthesia, and you have a complete blank in your
brain. It’s probably like being born, except as an adult. I had eleven “treatments” over
the course of five months. As far as helping, the electroshock had no therapeutic value at
all. None. To this day, friends will share with me some of the great times we had
together, and I just can’t remember.
JODY A. HARMON (U.S. electroshock survivor), Oryx Cohen interview, summer
2001, Oral History Project, www.mindfreedom.org/histories.shtml
1978 — An extensive American Psychiatric Association membership survey found that
41 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, “It is likely that ECT produces
slight or subtle brain damage”; 26 percent disagreed [editor’s summary].
AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION, Electroconvulsive Therapy (Task
Force Report 14), ch. 1, 1978.
See Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.
1978 — The truth is… that electroshock “works” by a mechanism that is simple,
straightforward, and understood by many of those who have undergone it and anyone
else who has truly wanted to find out. Unfortunately, the advocates of electroshock
(particularly those who administer it) refuse to recognize what it does, because to do so
would make them feel bad.
Electroshock works by damaging the brain. Proponents insist that this damage is
negligible and transient — a contention that is disputed by many who have been
subjected to the procedure. Furthermore, its advocates want to see this damage as a
“side effect.” In fact, the changes one sees when electroshock is administered are
completely consistent with any acute brain injury, such as a blow to the head with a
LEE COLEMAN (U.S. psychiatrist), introduction to Leonard Roy Frank, ed., The
History of Shock Treatment, 1978.
See Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.
1978 — The principal complications of EST are death, brain damage, memory
impairment, and spontaneous seizures. These complications are similar to those seen
after head trauma, with which EST has been compared.
MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist, founding editor, in 1985, of
Convulsive Therapy, renamed The Journal of ECT [“Official Journal of the Association
for Convulsive Therapy”], and currently the world’s leading proponent of ECT, 1923-),
“Efficacy and Safety of Induced Seizures (EST) in Man,” Comprehensive Psychiatry,
January-February 1978. Eleven years later, Fink was quoted in a magazine article as
saying, “I can’t prove there’s no brain damage [from ECT]. I can’t prove there are no
other sentient beings in the universe, either. But scientists have been trying for thirty
years to find both, and so far they haven’t come up with a thing” (Russ Rymer,
“Electroshock,” Hippocrates, March-April 1989).
See Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.
1978 — Shock is what finally validates psychiatrists and makes them look and feel like
real doctors. Shock is their big gun, their open-heart surgery.
JOHN FRIEDBERG (U.S. neurologist), quoted in Dean Katz and Rick Anderson,
“Doctors Split over Use of Electroshock,” Seattle Times, 8 October 1978.
1978 — In the whole of medicine, actually, there is nothing so predictable as the effect of
ECT in a depressed patient — not in any other patient, but in a typical depressed patient.
It is absolutely predictable that the patient will get better, that he can go back to work in
three weeks…. Nothing is so predictable in medicine, not to talk about psychiatry
[ellipsis in original].
LOTHAR B. KALINOWSKY (German-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), Margaret
C. McDonald interview, “ECT: Lothar Kalinowsky Remembers,” Psychiatric News, 5
1978 — Dr. [Albert] Hurley admitted that some patients have been forced to take E.C.T.
at Providence [Medical Center in Seattle].
When a reporter said hospital personnel have told of patients being brought “kicking
ad screaming” to the shock room by nurses and attendants, Dr. Hurley responded: “I
think patients have had to be brought to the room against their immediate will, but they
already had indicated a willingness to have the treatment.”
In those instances, he said, “We had informed consent from somebody — a
responsible relative or somebody. If someone isn’t able to sign their name, we have a
responsible relative sign for them.”
Providence’s consent form states the agreement can be abrogated at any time by
either party. State law provides that anyone shall have a right to refuse to consent to
shock treatment and that only a court can order involuntary shock treatment.
Other inquiries about use of E.C.T. at Providence brought occasional outrage in Dr.
“I think your informant’s a goddamn liar,” he said at one point to reporters.
DEAN KATZ and RICK ANDERSON (U.S. journalists), “Providence Hospital Is
Shock-Treatment Center,” Seattle Times, 8 October 1978. Hurley was Providence’s
psychiatric director. According to Katz and Anderson, 191 patients received “a total of
1,528 treatments in 1977 [making Providence Washington] state’s major E.C.T.
treatment center. More than one-third of all state E.C.T. patients are treated there. And
it has, in medical circles, earned Providence the unwanted title of ‘The Shock Shop.’ The
hospital does not wear it proudly.”
1978 — [Providence’s Dr. Albert] Hurley was asked about a recent case at his psychiatric
unit where a 64-year-old, psychotically depressed former Boeing employee entered the
hospital and began receiving shock treatments within four days. He responded: “That
would be pretty unusual, to come in and have shock that soon.”…
The man, he was told by reporters, was in good physical health, according to his
personal doctor. The man’s widow said he never previously had psychiatric counseling
or had taken drugs other than a mild tranquilizer.
He remained in Providence about 2 weeks, receiving 6 shock treatments and, 24
hours after the last treatment, on August 12, died.
Cause of death, according to the official death certificate citing an autopsy done at
Providence, was listed as pulmonary embolus — or blood clot of the lungs.
“I think it’s very unlikely,” Dr. Hurley said, “that the death was connected with the
man’s treatment. It’s a question I can’t even answer — it hasn’t come up for review, yet.
But this would be the first case ever reported here, and it is up to the pathologist to say
something if it was — and he hasn’t.”
Dr. Hurley added:
“There are, of course, complications with this treatment, mainly the drugs — the
anesthetics — and sometimes the resuscitation involved in post-treatment. One guy
almost died the other night.”
DEAN KATZ and RICK ANDERSON, “Providence Hospital Is Shock-Treatment
Center,” Seattle Times, 8 October 1978.
1978 — I have been a registered nurse for 13 years and I’ve been a psychiatric nurse for
the past five….
I have seen the shock doctor try out all kinds of drugs, mixing them and using them
in such a way that the patient would get worse. Worse. And then the doctor [would have
a case for using] ECT as “all else has failed.” Often, if a lot of anticholinergic drugs are
given at once, the patient can go into a worse state and it’s called an anticholinergic
psychosis. I have seen him do this several times with different patients. It can be made
to look in the chart that ECT is the last resort.
I have seen consults with other psychiatrists which are required by law, signed and
written up when the patient was in the process of being put under anesthesia. This is
Patients are badgered to consent to another series after the first series is finished. At
this point they are often confused and do not remember how many treatments they have
had. Can this be legal informed consent?
Patients are often given a soft sell and not told of the possibilities of irreversible brain
damage. Thus, they cannot truly make an informed consent.
CATHIE MEYER (U.S. nurse), testimony at a hearing on electroshock conducted by
the Berkeley Human Relations and Welfare Commission, 24 April 1982, published in
“Electroshock Hearings in Berkeley,” Madness Network News, Spring 1983.
1978 — [Some view ECT as] a club. Madhouse keepers once carried clubs — real clubs
made of oak or maple — as they made their rounds. In modern American state hospitals
the nurses no longer carry clubs, but they have at their call the hospital’s security police,
who do. Those clubs are an intrinsic part of the institution’s social structure: they
enforce the rule that orders shall be given by staff and obeyed by patients.
The thousands of physicians who use ECT understandably find the shock-as-club
analogies offensive in the extreme. Physicians see themselves as healers, not bullies;
their weapons are weapons against disease, not against individuality or autonomy. They
look inward, observe that their intentions are honorable, and conclude that their critics
are misguided or malicious.
EDWARD M. OPTON JR. (U.S. attorney and psychologist) and ALAN W.
SCHEFLIN (U.S. professor of law), The Mind Manipulators, ch. 9, 1978.
1978 — ECT is a technique particularly susceptible to misuse for purposes of mind
manipulation. It is cheap. It is quick. In many people it inspires terror. As Dr. [Mark]
Zeifert says, “Anticipation of ECT could, of course, be used as an instrument of
torture…” [ellipsis in original]. Whether shock therapy actually does damage the brain
permanently or not is beside the point here: if it does not, so much the better. The mind
manipulator’s usual intent is to control behavior, not to fry brains.
Electroconvulsive shock is only one way to inspire terror, but it is one that has
advantages, from the user’s point of view, that are shared by few others. It is legitimized
as a standard medical practice, a fact of tremendous importance in a society that
condemns torture and terror under their own names….
And finally ECT leaves no visible marks.
EDWARD M. OPTON JR. and ALAN W. SCHEFLIN, The Mind Manipulators, ch.
9, 1978. Compare: “TERROR acts powerfully upon the body, through the medium of the
mind, and should be employed in the cure of madness…. FEAR, accompanied with
PAIN, and a sense of SHAME, has sometimes cured this disease. Bartholin speaks in
high terms of what he calls ‘flagellation’ in certain diseases” [emphasis in original].
(BENJAMIN RUSH [U.S. physician; signer of the Declaration of Independence;
author of the first U.S. textbook on mental diseases; inventor of the “tranquillizer” (a
chair with straps and a wooden head box that “binds and confines every part of the
body”) and “the father of American psychiatry” whose likeness appears on the seal of the
American Psychiatric Association], Medical Inquiries and Observations, Upon the
Diseases of the Mind, ch. 7, 1812).
1978 — A Philadelphia judge, Lisa Richette, tells of her experience after she became
depressed and voluntarily went into a New Jersey clinic. In the hospital she found many
of the young women patients were receiving electric shock. They were all voluntary
patients who had committed themselves, “but they were taking the shock treatments
because if they didn’t they could be committed involuntarily.” That is the threat that
doctors can hold over their patients.
Judge Richette said that she knew in the interest of her eventual cure she had to
resist. “But the more I resisted, the sicker they told me I was.” Within a week she told
the staff she wanted to leave. She was told that even though she was a voluntary patient,
the law stated that she could and would be held for seventy-two hours. “I said I’d file a
writ of habeas corpus.” Judge Richette said, “They allowed me to leave, and as I was
leaving, they said I was psychotic.” (Judge Richette attributes her cure to getting out of
her system the antidepressant drugs she had taken and to getting psychological
treatment — verbal therapy and assertiveness training — at a university-affiliated
hospital that was not shock-oriented.)
JONAS ROBITSCHER (U.S. psychiatrist), The Powers of Psychiatry, ch. 16, 1980.
Richette’s account was based on an article by Dianne Gordon published in the
Philadelphia Bulletin, 6 October 1978.
1979 — While there can be no doubt that [electroshock] frequently causes great harm, it
is possible that many individuals escape with little or no bad aftereffects. Most
important, experiences with personal friends have shown me that even individuals who
feel they have been harmed by the treatment can nonetheless live fully responsible,
worthwhile, and happy lives.
PETER R. BREGGIN (U.S. psychiatrist), preface to Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling
1979 — [Electroconvulsive] treatments must be described and given with compassion.
After all, patients are likely not to be stupid, insensitive, deaf, or blind. They fear the
currents that will pass through their body; they fear pain and brain damage; they
anticipate and dread the loss of memory. After the first treatment, they are concerned
about their feelings of unreality, confusion, unsteadiness, headache, and nausea. A
special concern may be for the feeling of being conscious and unable to breathe, of
suffocation, particularly when the anesthesia has been ineptly administered. It is of little
help to a waiting and anxious patient to hear the bustle and comments associated with
the treatment of another patient or to see a patient in post-ECT confusion or delirium.
Proper attention to the courtesies and considerations due patients will do much to
relieve their anxiety and our preoccupation with consent procedures and malpractice
MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), advice to colleagues,
Convulsive Therapy: Theory and Practice, ch. 16, 1979.
1963-1979 — For more than 10 years psychiatrist Dr. Harry Bailey turned Chelmsford [a
private psychiatric hospital in Sydney, Australia] into a chamber of horrors. Many
patients did not check out alive….
Bailey treated more than 3,000 patients as guinea pigs for his Deep Sleep Therapy
(DST) — barbiturate-induced comas lasting up to three weeks — and Electro-Convulsive
Therapy, according to the Royal Commission’s report.
Between 1963 and 1979 at least 24 patients died as a result of DST. Another 24
committed suicide after being discharged.
In all, 183 deep sleep patients died either in hospital or within a year of returning to
the outside world, while 977 were diagnosed as brain damaged….
Chelmsford is now closed. Bailey killed himself with drugs in 1985.
MICHAEL PERRY (journalist), “Horror Tales Emerge from Australian Hospital,”
Jakarta Post (Indonesia), 28 December 1990.
See D. Ewen Cameron’s entry in 1957 above.
1980 — Boy, stupid boy
Don’t sit at the table
Until you’re able to
Toy, broken toy
You’re inside out
If you don’t know, Electric co.
If you don’t know, Electric co.
Red, running red
Play for real
The toy could feel
A hole in your head
You go in shock
Just to hear me
I’ve found me way home.
BONO (Irish songwriter and performer), “Electric Co.,” 1980. The song was written
after Bono, U2’s lead singer, visited a school friend at Dublin’s St. Brendan’s Psychiatric
Hospital where he had just undergone electroshock.
1980 — Within hours of arriving at the hospital, I was very carefully treated with
electric-shock therapy. ECT is horribly misunderstood. People have this ghastly image of
someone standing in a tub of water and putting his finger in a socket. I knew better. I
had done some shows about it. The hospital requires a release for ECT. I was so
disoriented I couldn’t figure out what they were asking me to sign, but I signed anyway.
In my case, ECT was miraculous. My wife was dubious, but when she came into my
room afterward, I sat up and said, “Look who’s back among the living.” It was like a
magic wand. ECT is used as a jump starter to get you back. From that point on — six
weeks I was in the hospital and to this day — I’ve been treated with medication.
DICK CAVETT (U.S. electric-shock therapy patient and television personality),
describing his experience with ECT during “my biggest depressive episode” in 1980,
quoted in “Goodbye, Darkness,” People, 3 August 1992.
1980? — It’s been 7-8 years since I had [ECT], the long term damage is there and it’s not
coming back. At one time I never minded filling out job applications, I loved to read, my
goal was to finish high school G.E.D. [General Educational Development] and become
I can no longer fill out applications. I’m not able to retain anything I might learn, I
read and the next minute it’s gone. I can’t follow written instructions, I become
confused. Just the other day I had to fill out an application for Food Stamps. I couldn’t
do it. I started to cry. Something so simple and it deals with current things, I just
couldn’t handle it.
At one time I tried to file for Social Security. I could not remember places I worked or
years. My mother tells me I was always good with dates, years, etc, not no more. I can’t
do any math, I’ve been tutored and helped and it won’t sink in. I can read a page in a
book and look up and not have any recollection of what I read. I have lost my ability to
learn and better myself….
I’d also like to tell you that since the ECT I lost my first husband, I have hardly any
memory of him, we were married 10 years.
I can no longer remember from day to day. When I’m lucky enough to find work, it’s
mass confusion and I usually don’t last too long.
DORIS HEIKILA (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 25 February 1987, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1980 — One advantage in the use of this treatment as far as hospital staff is concerned is
that the effect of successive shock treatments makes the patient more and more
confused, regressed, compliant, and — above all — forgetful, until the patient no longer
remembers that he is fighting his hospitalization and the use of electroshock treatment.
If there is any question whether the patient meets the criteria for commitment, several
shocks later all doubts will have disappeared as the patient becomes increasingly more
disoriented and confused.
JONAS ROBITSCHER (U.S. psychiatrist), The Powers of Psychiatry, ch. 16, 1980.
1981 — The brain- and mind-disabling hypothesis states that the more potent somatic
therapies in psychiatry, that is, the major tranquilizers, lithium, ECT, and
psychosurgery, produce brain damage and dysfunction, and that this damage and
dysfunction is the primary, clinical or so-called beneficial effect. The individual
subjected to the dysfunction becomes less able and more helpless, ultimately becoming
more docile, tractable, and most importantly, more suggestible or easy to influence. As
with any brain-damaged person, the post-ECT patient will tend to deny both his
personal problems and his brain dysfunction; the cooperation between physician and
patient in this mutual hoax I have labeled iatrogenic denial….
Individual reactions to brain damage and dysfunction may also determine whether or
not the patient is considered to be improved. A reaction of apathy to the damage may
lead to a judgment of “improved” if the individual has previously been hostile,
rebellious, manic, uncooperative, or restless and overactive. A reaction of euphoria to
the damage may be called an improvement if the individual has been previously
depressed, sluggish, and uncommunicative. The memory loss characteristic of ECT may
also be considered an improvement if the individual no longer “knows” or “reports” on
his concerns or bad recollections.
PETER R. BREGGIN (U.S. psychiatrist), “Disabling the Brain with Electroshock,”
published in Maurice Dongier and Eric D. Wittkower, eds., Divergent Views in
See Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.
David Keller / 1974
Peter R. Breggin
1981 — The proper number of treatments is important…. But I believe a bare minimum
of twelve treatments must be given. How many more are required is a day-to-day
decision based on clinical experience. You have to be guided by the patient’s tolerance
for the treatment and by how dangerously sick the patient was to start with. But the
patient must be symptom free for at least two or three weeks before treatments are
MARTIN TOWLER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), quoted in Joel Warren Barna,
“Shocking: How Galveston’s Medical School Earned Its Reputation as the Shock
Treatment Capital of Texas,” Houston City Magazine, December 1981.
1982 — The widow of a man who died after receiving electric shock therapy at Natchaug
Hospital [Mansfield, Connecticut] six years ago has been awarded an out-of-court
The settlement came on the eve of the trial. The plaintiff, Natalie A. Monty, had sued
the hospital, its former medical director, Dr. Olga A. G. Little [and others.]
Monty’s attorney, Leon M. Kaatz of Hartford, would not discuss particulars of the
settlement, which is still being finalized, but he said the settlement is in the “the
neighborhood” of $300,000.
DEBRA HURLEY (U.S. journalist), “Shock Therapy Victim’s Widow Gets Settlement,”
Hartford Courant, 1 November 1982.
1982 — To the astonishment of local psychiatrists, a proposal has been placed on
[Berkeley’s] November ballot that would ban the psychiatric procedure commonly
known as electroshock therapy [opening paragraph]….
Tensions have been building up between the protesters and the psychiatric
Dr. Malcolm Duncan, director of inpatient psychiatry at [Berkeley’s] Herrick Hospital
accused antishock activists of trying to deny patients the right to choose a valuable
“If they take away the advances psychiatry has made in recent years, we might as well
go back to the Dark Ages,” Dr. Duncan said. “In many cases this therapy can get people
out of institutions who might otherwise remain hospitalized for life.”
But Ted Chabasinski, who wrote the election initiative said, “Psychiatrists used to call
lobotomy an advance because it got people out of hospitals. Today they call it barbaric.”
NEW YORK TIMES, “Bid to Ban Shock Therapy Put on Berkeley Ballot,” 8 August
1982 — The proposed Ordinance [prohibiting electric shock treatment in Berkeley]
reads as follows:
The people of the City of Berkeley do ordain as follows:
Section 1. Title: The title of this ordinance shall be “An Act to Protect the Human
Rights of Psychiatric Patients by Prohibiting the Use of Electric Shock Treatment in
Section 2. Declaration of policy: It is hereby recognized and declared that all persons
within the City of Berkeley, including all persons involuntarily confined, have a
fundamental right against interference with their thought processes and states of mind
through the use of electric shock treatment.
Section 3. Prohibition: The administration of electric shock treatment to any person
within the City of Berkeley is hereby prohibited.
Section 4. Penalties: Any violation of this ordinance shall be a misdemeanor
punishable by not more than six months imprisonment, a fine of not more than $500, or
PETITION TO ENACT AN ORDINANCE, Berkeley, California, 1982.
1982 — The psychiatric survivors movement won an important victory in 1982 when the
citizens of Berkeley, California, voted overwhelmingly for Measure T, a ban
criminalizing the use of electroshock “treatment” in their community. It may have been
the first time anywhere in the world that electroshock was outlawed.
A Bay Area group called the Network Against Psychiatric Assault (NAPA) had begun
confronting the psychiatric establishment in 1974. Its activities, including
demonstrations, forums, and lobbying, generated broad media attention and laid the
groundwork for the Berkeley ban by raising public awareness about widespread abuse in
the psychiatric field.
In early 1981 NAPA organized protest demonstrations at Herrick Hospital, Berkeley’s
only electroshock facility and one of the state’s leading ECT centers. Florence
McDonald, a highly regarded member of the Berkeley City Council, attended one of the
demonstrations and later offered to get the council involved in the issue. As a result, in
January 1982, the city’s Human Relations and Welfare Commission held a hearing on
electroshock that was well covered by the media. Dozens of people who had undergone
electroshock testified, all of them opposed to the procedure. The only people who spoke
for shock were the doctors that gave it, and a few relatives of shock victims, who were of
course not there to speak for themselves.
NAPA next decided to place an electroshock ban on the ballot while the issue was in
the public eye. NAPA activists started collecting signatures, and scores of people
suddenly offered to help. The Coalition to Stop Electroshock, a group of eight
community organizations, was formed for the occasion. Although the signature
gatherers had only a few weeks to meet the deadline, they turned in twice as many
signatures as required.
Word of the ballot measure spread rapidly around the country. Soon a prominent
article about it appeared in the New York Times, followed by serious and sympathetic
stories by major U.S. television networks, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and
European media outlets.
Enthusiasm built as campaign workers rang doorbells, talked to voters, and passed
out leaflets at markets, at theaters, and on the street. It was democracy, in its truest
sense, at work. And on Election Day, Measure T passed with more than 60 percent of
the vote, the largest margin of victory attained by any measure on the Berkeley ballot
Unfortunately, Herrick Hospital, with the support (financial and otherwise) of the
American Psychiatric Association, was able to get the courts to strike down the ban on
the grounds that a state law governing the use of ECT preempted the city’s right to
regulate the procedure.
But for 41 days, Herrick’s ECT devices were shut down. The people of Berkeley, by
voting to outlaw electroshock, had sent a message to the country and beyond that
electroshock had no place in a civilized community. Anti-ECT activists hoped the
episode anticipated a time when electroshock would be relegated to history’s dust heap.
TED CHABASINSKI (U.S. electroshock survivor and attorney), personal
communication, 25 November 2005. Chabasinski, a leading activist in the struggle
against electroshock and other harmful psychiatric methods since 1972, was
instrumental in organizing the campaign that resulted in Measure T’s victory at the
See Chabasinski’s entry in 1944 and Lauretta Bender’s in 1947 above; and Leonard Frank’s in 1974-1983
Dmitri Kasterine / Hippocrates / March-April 1989
1982 — It is what I call pathological consumerism. The city of Berkeley has once again
Essentially, the Berkeley electorate is practicing medicine without a license. It flies in
the face of logic to ask voters what treatments patients should have…. It is a question of
principle, of the inmates not being allowed to run the asylum, literally.
MARTIN J. RUBINSTEIN (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), quoted in Steve Twomey,
“In Berkeley, One Medical Practice Comes to an End,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 3
December 1982. At the time, Rubinstein administered ECT at Berkeley’s Herrick
Hospital later merged into Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
1971-1982 — Between February 1977 and October 1978 Freeman and Kendell
interviewed 166 patients who had ECT during either 1971 or 1976 in Edinburgh. Of this
group, 64 percent reported “memory impairment” (25 percent “thought symptom
severe,” 39 percent “thought symptom mild”). Twenty-eight percent agreed with the
statement that “ECT causes permanent changes to memory.” Squire reported findings of
his three-year follow-up study of 35 people who had received an average of 11 bilateral
ECTs. Of the 31 people available for interview, 18 (58 percent) answered “no” to the
question, “Do you think your memory now is as good as it is for most people your age?”
All but one of the 18 attributed their memory difficulties to ECT.
LEONARD ROY FRANK (U.S. electroshock survivor and editor), “Electroshock:
Death, Brain Damage, Memory Loss, and Brainwashing,” Journal of Mind and
Behavior, Summer-Autumn 1990. British psychiatrists C. P. L. Freeman and R. E.
Kendell published their findings in an article titled “ECT: I. Patients’ Experiences and
Attitudes,” British Journal of Psychiatry, July 1980; U.S. research psychologist Larry
Squire’s study was summarized in his letter to the American Journal of Psychiatry,
See Freeman and Kendell’s entry in 1976 above.
1983 — “A rose by any other name….” A rose called “Shit” would not smell as sweet. The
average card-carrying idiot can figure that out. Then, why, in the name of common
sense, do psychiatrists insist on calling their most effective treatment “electroshock
treatment” or, worse, “electroconvulsive treatment”? A public-relations blunder of such
proportions goggles [sic] the mind [opening sentences]….
If none of the thousands of psychiatrists who believe in the value of electroshock
treatment can think of a better term, perhaps we can get some counsel from Madison
Avenue. Our patients deserve no less [closing paragraph].
ARTHUR W. ANDERSON JR. (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), letter to Psychiatric
News, 7 January 1983. Comment: “Dr. Arthur W. Anderson Jr. is quite correct…. The
symbol is the thing, as eminent sociologists have pointed out in their theories that
reality is in large measure socially constructed. That is why my patients have never
received electroconvulsive therapy. Rather, they undergo cerebroversion” (FRANK
ADAMS [U.S. electroshock psychiatrist], letter to Psychiatric News, 18 March 1983).
1983 — Before ECT, I studied math up through calculus. After ECT, I can just barely
make change in a store. ECT gives a person a different brain from the one a person had.
One never feels sure about this strange new head. Some things come back. A great deal
of memory never returns. And one cannot retain new information, so one’s future is
JUNE BASSETT (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 2 May 1983, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy Device,
Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1983 — With respect to shock therapy specifically, I support its use in a limited fashion
— only as a last resort for the treatment of severe depression that cannot be effectively
treated any other way. In such instances, shock therapy can be lifesaving by preventing
suicide in a person who is severely depressed.
As I pointed out before in this column, shock therapy performed today is not the
“chamber of horrors” many people imagine; it is far more humane and less disturbing to
the patient and those who administer the treatment.
TIMOTHY JOHNSON (U.S. physician), “Shock Therapy Is Not So Bad Today,”
Monterey Peninsula Herald (California), 14 January 1984. At the time, Johnson had a
syndicated question-and-answer column focused on medical issues. For many years he
has been ABC television’s medical correspondent.
1983 — My personal experience as a patient, shock treatment is intrusive therapy….
Blue Cross, Blue Shield pays for a quick fix. I had no after-care follow-up in the
community. The experience of going back to work was horrendous. I could not
remember names of fellow employees; code numbers for the computer department was
wiped out of my mind.
Before this hospitalization, I was going to business school for accounting. All that I
learned was wiped out of my mind. My vocal studies were brought to an abrupt halt. My
repertoire of music was wiped out of my mind.
ELIZABETH PLASICK (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 20 May 1983, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy Device,
Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1983 — After a few sessions of ECT the symptoms are those of moderate cerebral
contusion, and further enthusiastic use of ECT may result in the patient functioning at a
Electroconvulsive therapy in effect may be defined as a controlled type of brain
damage produced by electrical means….
In all cases the ECT “response” is due to the concussion-type, or more serious, effect
of ECT. The patient “forgets” his symptoms because the brain damage destroys memory
traces in the brain, and the patient has to pay for this by a reduction in mental capacity
of varying degree.
SIDNEY SAMENT (U.S. neurologist), letter to Clinical Psychiatry News, March 1983.
See Manfred Sakel’s entry in 1956 above; and Peter Sterling’s in 2001 below.
1974-1983 — Adopting the nonviolent methods of Henry David Thoreau (“Civil
Disobedience”), Mohandas K. Gandhi (An Autobiography: The Story of My
Experiments with Truth), and Martin Luther King Jr. (“Letter from Birmingham City
Jail”), the Network Against Psychiatric Assault, between 1974 and 1983, carried out or
joined with other groups in carrying out acts of civil disobedience to call attention to the
cruel practices psychiatrists impose on people they label “mentally ill.” These acts of
civil disobedience included:
Demonstrating, in 1974, at St. Mary’s Hospital (San Francisco) and invading the
locked wards which house its McAuley Neuropsychiatric Institute to protest the
staff’s use of forced drugging, “sheeting” (wrapping resistive inmates in sheets
like mummies for hours at a time), and “harassment therapy” (for example,
forcing inmates to scrub the floor with toothbrushes). Once inside, the protesters
engaged in straightforward talk with inmates and staff and distributed literature
critical of certain psychiatric practices. After the police arrived, the protesters
quietly left the premises.
Conducting, in the summer of 1976, a month-long sleep-in demonstration at
Governor Jerry Brown’s office in Sacramento to protest forced labor without pay
(euphemized as “occupational therapy”) and forced drugging in California’s
psychiatric facilities. During the sleep-in several NAPA members met with
Governor Brown who later ordered an investigation of California’s state hospitals
which led to several modest reforms.
Demonstrating in San Francisco, with psychiatric survivors who were attending
an annual gathering of the International Conference on Human Rights and
Psychiatric Oppression, at the 1980 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric
Association and forming a human-chain to block one of the entranceways to a
building where the APA was meeting. The demonstration and block-in, which
protested involuntary commitment and the use of force and deception by
psychiatrists, continued for several hours without interference from the
Demonstrating on March 15, 1983, with the Coalition to Stop Electroshock, at
Berkeley’s Herrick Hospital where psychiatrists had resumed ECT after a court
order prohibited the city from enforcing the ban on electroshock Berkeley voters
had approved in a referendum the previous November. At one point, 19
protesters split off from the 150 or so who participated in the demonstration to sit
in front of the doors of Herrick’s administrative offices. This act of civil
disobedience prompted police action, and the 19 blockaders were arrested. After
about six hours in jail all of them were released on their own recognizance. At a
court hearing held subsequently, the defendants pleaded no contest to “blocking
traffic” and were sentenced to “time served.”
LEONARD ROY FRANK (U.S. electroshock survivor and editor). During the early
1980s, NAPA members also participated, with other opponents of psychiatric abuse, in
civil disobedience actions in Toronto, New York City, and Syracuse.
See Ted Chabasinski’s entry in 1982 above; and Don Weitz’s in 1976-1984 below.
1984 — It’s a matter of losing skills, losing learning that I had accumulated…. My entire
college education has been completely wiped out and besides that all the reading and
learning that I did on my own in the past three years…. I guess the doctors would
consider [that electroshock] had beneficial effects because it has “cured my depression,”
but it’s cured my depression by ruining my life, by taking away everything that made it
worth having in the first place…. It’s really important to point out what [ECT] does to
the emotions. It’s like I exist in this kind of nowhere world right now. I don’t feel
depressed. On the other hand I don’t feel happy. I just kind of feel nothing at all.
LINDA ANDRE (U.S. electroshock survivor, director of the Committee for Truth in
Psychiatry, and writer), radio interview, WBAI (New York City), 1985. Andre underwent
15 electroshocks at New York City’s Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in 1984 at the age
of 24. She is today in the forefront of the movement opposing electroshock.
See Andre’s entry in 2005 below.
1984 — My behavior [following electroshock in 1984] was greatly changed; in a brain-
damaged stupor, I smiled, cooperated, agreed that I had been a very sick girl and
thanked the doctor for curing me. I was released from the hospital like a child just born.
I knew where I lived, but I didn’t recognize the person I lived with. I didn’t know where I
had gotten the unfamiliar clothes in the closet. I didn’t know if I had any money or
where it was. I didn’t know the people calling me on the phone…. Very, very gradually —
I realized that three years of my life were missing. Four years after shock, they are still
LINDA ANDRE, “The Politics of Experience,” testimony before the Quality of Care
Conference, Albany (New York), 13 May 1988, quoted in Leonard Roy Frank,
“Electroshock: Death, Brain Damage, Memory Loss, and Brainwashing,” Journal of
Mind and Behavior, Summer-Autumn 1990.
1984 — The psychiatrist who helped instigate the effort to overturn Berkeley’s ban on
electroshock therapy has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of filing false Medi-
Dr. Ronald Bortman, who has a practice on Carleton Street in Berkeley, was fined the
maximum $5,000 for each count, ordered to pay $33,112.41 in restitution and given
three years probation.
Judge Carol Brosnahan also ordered him to perform 300 hours of community service
Bortman was the president of the East Bay chapter of the Northern California
Psychiatric Society when that group filed suit to overturn the city’s ban on electroshock,
which voters approved overwhelmingly in November 1982. He was the only named
individual plaintiff in the suit.
BERKELEY GAZETTE, “Electroshock Figure Guilty,” 24 January 1984.
See Ted Chabasinski’s entry in 1982 above.
1984 — In 1984, Marilyn Rice founded The Committee for Truth in Psychiatry (CTIP),
all of whose members are electroshock survivors. The group has successfully opposed
the American Psychiatric Association’s petition to have the Food and Drug
Administration reclassify ECT devices from the dangerous, high-risk category (Class III)
of medical devices to the low-risk category (Class II). The 1979 law governing medical
devices requires the FDA to investigate Class III devices preliminary to reclassifying or
banning them. However, CTIP’s call for the FDA to fulfill its full investigative mandate,
with regards to ECT devices, has to date (2006) gone unheeded. Excerpts from 12 letters
(those with “letter to the Food and Drug Administration” in the citation) in The
Electroshock Quotationary have been drawn from the more than 1,000 letters and
comments sent to the FDA (Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy Device,
Rockville, Maryland) since 1983. Like all dockets at the FDA, this docket is a matter of
public record and may be seen by any citizen on request.
LEONARD ROY FRANK (U.S. electroshock survivor and editor).
1984 — It is 5 and one-half years since my horrifying experience of awaking in a hospital
after ECT, not knowing who I was, where I was, who my husband and children were,
what were my likes and dislikes, what my family was all about, what classes my children
excelled in, what the family liked and disliked, and where I stood in the life I was
supposed to be living…. The fear is a reality that I would never want to experience again
in any way.
The consent form, which states that there may be some temporary memory loss, is an
understatement. It is an outright lie and I wish to bring this to your attention. The
damage from ECT can be extreme and completely disabling, to a degree inconceivable
except by those who have undergone this horror. A diagnosis of organic brain syndrome
or senile dementia after ECT through neuropsychological testing is not taken lightly by a
person who had once been an intelligent and fully functioning being….
The heartache and striving for health following brain damage is an illness itself after
the damage from ECT.
PAT GABEL (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 25 June 1990, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy Device,
Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1984 — Electroconvulsive therapy has a shotgun effect on the brain.
ROBERT G. HEATH (U.S. psychosurgeon), “An Overdue Comprehensive Look at a
Maligned Treatment: Electroconvulsive Therapy,” Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol.
7, 1984. Heath’s comment appears among otherwise favorable reflections on ECT.
1976-1984 — Since the 1970s, anti-shock demonstrations and protests, including
nonviolent civil disobedience (CD), have played major roles in the psychiatric survivor
liberation movement’s struggle to ban electroshock and expose its use as a serious
As a form of direct action, CD has been carried out in various cities including
Berkeley, Haverford (Pennsylvania), New York City, Sacramento, San Francisco,
Syracuse, and Toronto. The CD was usually directed against specific psychiatric
hospitals that were known to frequently administer electroshock but also against
psychiatric convention sites.
For example, in May 1982 during the 10th Annual International Conference on
Human Rights and Psychiatric Oppression, sixteen activists staged a sit-in in a
downtown hotel lobby in Toronto where the American Psychiatric Association was
holding its annual meeting. They were protesting against electroshock and other
harmful procedures including forced drugging. All were arrested but released the same
day on bail.
During an APA convention in New York City in May 1983, the movement held a
counter-conference and supported CD against Gracie Square Hospital, a well-known
shock mill in Manhattan. Nine psychiatric survivors chained themselves to the front
doors of Gracie Square. This action attracted the police who arrested, booked and
quickly released the demonstrators who had put their bodies on the line.
Three weeks later, at the 11th Annual International Conference on Human Rights and
Psychiatric Oppression in Syracuse, several survivors chained themselves to the front
doors of Benjamin Rush Psychiatric Center to protest that institution’s frequent use of
electroshock on both adults and children. That CD had considerable impact, since the
Center stopped using electroshock about three years later.
In 1984 in Toronto, there was another CD action in the office of Ontario’s Minister of
Health. Organized and carried out by three activists including two shock survivors, the
sit-in was a tactic to pressure the Minister of Health to appoint a shock survivor to a
doctor-dominated government panel charged with investigating the “medical, legal and
ethical aspects” of electroshock in Ontario. Shock survivor and attorney Carla McKague
was appointed to the panel a few months later.
Since that time, many acts of resistance against electroshock and other abusive
psychiatric practices have been carried out by individuals and groups in the United
States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere.
DON WEITZ (U.S.-born insulin subcoma survivor and Canadian antipsychiatry/social
justice activist), personal communication, 5 October 2005. For almost 30 years, Weitz
has led the struggle against psychiatric abuse in Canada.
See Leonard Frank’s entry in 1974-1983 above.
1985 — Electroconvulsive therapy is the most controversial treatment in psychiatry….
The [conference] panel has found that ECT is demonstrably effective for a narrow
range of severe psychiatric disorders in a limited number of diagnostic categories:
delusional and severe endogenous depression and manic and certain schizophrenic
syndromes. There are, however significant side effects, especially acute confusional
states and persistent memory deficits for events during the months surrounding the
CONSENSUS DEVELOPMENT CONFERENCE STATEMENT,
“Electroconvulsive Therapy,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 18 October
1985. The statement was produced by a panel of 14 professionals, mainly physicians,
who had participated in a three-day conference on ECT (sponsored by the National
Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health) in Bethesda, Maryland
in June 1985.
1985 — Expert in public propaganda
They go to work on me — convinced
of euphemism. Sure of number,
determined both will burn the term
splashed upon my face.
they try out some occupational tricks… EXPERIMENT,
they think it clever to baptize torture with initials.
they think it subtle to call it TREATMENT
they talk of cures
reciting tales of miraculous salvation.
I don’t buy it
I’ve seen the disasters, the mistakes
I call it ELECTROCUTION.
NIRA FLEISCHMAN (Canadian electroshock survivor), complete poem, “ECT,” 1985,
published in Bonnie Burstow and Don Weitz, eds., Shrink Resistant: The Struggle
Against Psychiatry in Canada, 1988.
1985 — I told my shrink I didn’t want to be cured of being a lesbian. He said that just
proved how sick I was. He said I needed shock treatment….
[There were] wires coming from her head and her face all contorted, her body trying
to arch up off the stretcher. She was making this sort of groaning, grunting sound. Then
the nurse pulled me back and I was yelling something about how they couldn’t do that to
me and I ran but of course there was nowhere to run to….
[I] didn’t know where I was. I had this incredible headache and all the gritty stuff on
my face and I wondered what awful thing had happened….
[I] could focus my eyes and saw I was on a stretcher. There was this whole row of
stretchers with people groaning as they came to and I guess I was groaning too….
Nineteen shock treatments and I still didn’t want to cured of being a lesbian.
SHEILA GILHOOLY (Canadian electroshock survivor), “Still Sane,” published in
Persimmon Blackbridge and Gilhooly, Still Sane, 1985.
1985 — After shock treatments my memory was kind of wrecked, even for following
conversations or remembering what I’d had for breakfast. My shrink said it had nothing
to do with shock— it was ‘cause I didn’t want to remember and stuff like that. When I
got out of Birchwood It was really hard. At first I was all casual and would say, “Oh,
how’s Aunt Agnes these days?” And it would turn out she’d been dead for six months. It
got so no one ever called me ‘cause they thought I was too weird. I didn’t even have it
together to be pissed off. I just felt scared. I didn’t know if I’d ever get better….
After a year my memory gradually improved, though I still have blank spots. A long
time later, I found out that memory loss is a common after-effect of shock treatment.
SHEILA GILHOOLY, “Still Sane,” published in Persimmon Blackbridge and Gilhooly,
Still Sane, 1985. Both Gilhooly entries were taken from excerpts in Bonnie Burstow and
Don Weitz, eds., Shrink Resistant: The Struggle Against Psychiatry in Canada, 1988.
1985 — I’ve asked myself these things many times — and never found an answer —
questions about the people who give ECT, the “shock doctors”: “Are these men evil?” I
asked, using “men” since 95 percent of all shock doctors are male. “Are they stupid? Are
they really heartless and sadistic and cruel? Are they morally deficient? Or, perhaps, do
they suffer from a kind of self-induced blindness, and unwillingness to see what they are
truly doing to the people they purport to help?”…
I choose to be charitable and, rather than assuming malicious intent, assume a kind
of benign but powerful avoidance on the part of these shock doctors of some painful
truths about the nature of their chosen “therapy.” We must tell some of those truths, in
the belief that all people are capable of change, that all people can be open to new ideas
and long hidden truths, if they truly want to be….
What has been “proved”? I will tell you: that ECT destroys healthy brain tissue! That
these “treatments” cause anguish and misery and permanent damage each and every
time they are inflicted. That there are no consistent criteria for improvement, that
patient accounts of memory loss and suffering are discounted — for elderly people, as
signs of senility; for the rest of us, as indications that our so-called mental illnesses
Who gets “well” from ECT? I will tell you: those whose confusion is so intense they
can, for a while, forget their sufferings. Those who are incapacitated into a passive
acceptance of their allotted roles. Those who are cowed into quietness, assaulted into a
nether world of obedience. For a time, their wild, mad, annoying rambunctiousness is
quelled — and the doctors marvel at their “improvement.”
They bloody us into quietude, terrorize us into acquiescence, and call it a cure.
For sure, the ECT doctors are engaged in a highly questionable activity, both
medically and ethically. And a profoundly controversial one. There really is no getting
away from that…. Do they tell their patients, ever, the price of the trade-off —
permanent brain damage for possible temporary relief from pain? Do they say that they
are systematically and methodically burning portions of their patients’ brains — for a
moment’s surcease? Do they tell themselves? Ever? [closing paragraphs]
JANET GOTKIN (U.S. electroshock survivor, writer, and researcher), “Electroshock:
A Modern Medical Atrocity” (a talk presented at a plenary session of electroshock
psychiatrists during the First International Conference of Electroconvulsive Therapy
[ECT]: Clinical and Basic Research Issues, sponsored by the New York Academy of
Sciences and the National Institute of Mental Health in New York City, 18 January
1985), (modified by Gotkin), published in Jeanine Grobe, ed., Beyond Bedlam:
Contemporary Women Psychiatric Survivors Speak Out, 1995.
See Gotkin’s two entries in 1975 above.
1985 — The voluminous but seldom read scientific literature on electroconvulsive
therapy warrants the conclusion that the procedure is one of considerable risk and
unproven effectiveness [opening sentence]….
Medicine properly accepts greater risks if a treatment is proved effective. Conversely,
even uncommon complications are intolerable if the therapeutic effect is speculative.
EDWARD M. OPTON JR. (U.S. attorney and psychologist), “ECT: Is It Unsafe and
Ineffective?” Consensus Development Conference Program & Abstracts
(Electroconvulsive Therapy), National Institutes of Health, 1985.
1986 — If there is any erasure [of memory from ECT], it is for the events during the
hospital. In many ways we’re very grateful that patients forget that. After all, it’s not a
pleasant time of your life. For a depressed patient to be in the hospital, it’s not pleasant.
And if they forget that, that’s fine.
MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), Informed Consent for
Patients and Families with Max Fink, M.D. (film), Somatics, Inc., 1986.