Subject RETURN OF ELECTROSHOCK PSYCH. THERAPY Written 448 pm Feb 25, 1991 by christic in c
Subject: RETURN OF ELECTROSHOCK PSYCH. THERAPY
Written 4:48 pm Feb 25, 1991 by christic in cdp:christic.news
RETURN OF ELECTROSHOCK: THE `NEW, IMPROVED' PSYCHIATRIC THERAPY
Project Censored: Nomination for the "Ten Best Censored Stories of 1990"
Electroshock treatment is a form of psychiatric therapy born in the age of
lobotomies and made famous in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Electrodes
are placed on a patient's temples and electricity is shot through the brain,
inducing an epilepticlike seizure that is supposed to cure mental illness.
After years of abuse, highlighted by the "dark days" of the 1950s when
hospitals turned into "shock mills" and patients were forced to undergo
shock treatments that often turned them into zombies, electroshock treatment
seemed destined to disappear along with lobotomies.
Today, however, hospitals are secretly bringing back electroshock therapy.
To introduce the new shock therapy, now called electroconvulsive therapy
(ECT), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) held a December 1989 press
conference where psychiatrists announced ECT has become "safe and
effective." The most significant change is that ECT is now applied to only
one side of the brainthe more creative, emotional siderather than both
sides, as in the past.
Proponents say ECT is now on the rise because of its effectiveness. "It's
a lifesaver," says Dr. Glen Peterson, of Providence Hospital, in Oakland,
California. "In the face of all the negative criticism, we haven't been able
to get away from the fact that ECT is a very effective treatment." The
hospital's informational brochure says "ECT is an exceptionally effective
medical treatment, helping 90 percent of the patients who take it. Most
patients remain well for many months afterwards." (Emphasis added.)
As ECT returns, the question of brain damage has disappeared from most
discussion of the treatment. The APA's new 217page report on ECT doesn't
even mention the issue, except to say that doctors needn't include brain
damage as a risk they mention to patients. Meanwhile, former shock patients,
patients' rights advocates and doctors say the treatment doesn't really cure
problemsbut may cause some serious ones. "It's a quickfix treatment that
causes brain damage, but it doesn't work," says neurologist John Friedberg
of Berkely, author of the book Shock Treatment is Not Good for Your Brain.
Critics charge that one reason that ECT is becoming more popular is
because it is immensely lucrative. The average ECT patient will stay in the
hospital for about a month, at a cost of about $500 a day; when the cost of
treatment is added, the bill comes to about $20,000. Insurance companies and
Medicare support ECT by paying for longer hospital stays for psychiatric
patients who receive the treatment compared to those on medications or
To support increased use of ECT, the APA has requested that the Food and
Drug Administration reclassify the machine used to shock patients from Class
III to Class II. The shock machine was put in Class III in 1979, after the
FDA's Neurological Device Classification Panel identified eight risks to
health in ECT, including brain damage and memory loss. Class II is for low
or moderaterisk devices.
Since the APA has been able to maintain a low media profile on its efforts
to bring back electroshock therapy, the number of patients receiving such
therapy has been on the rise, and it is now estimated that 100,000 people,
mostly middleaged, white females, receive it annually.
SOURCE: THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN, 4/18/90, "Electroshock's Quiet
Comeback," by Vince Bielski, pp 17-21.
End of text from cdp:christic.news
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