The Electroshock Quotationary

It’s a void, I can’t describe it, and there’s also a feeling of something fundamental that
I don’t even know what it is [that’s] missing… just like an intrinsic part of me that I feel
isn’t there and it once was…. Part of me feels like there was a real death of something,
something died during that time.
ANONYMOUS (four British electroshock survivors), quoted in Lucy Johnstone
(British psychologist), “Adverse Psychological Effects of ECT,” Journal of Mental
Health, vol. 8, 1999.

1999 — Electroshock has undergone fundamental changes since its introduction 65 [sic]
years ago. It is no longer the bone-breaking, memory-modifying, fearsome treatment
pictured in films. Anesthesia, controlled oxygenation, and muscle relaxation make the
procedure so safe that the risks are less than those which accompany the use of several
psychotropic drugs. Indeed, for the elderly, the systematically ill, and pregnant women,
electroshock is a safer treatment for mental illness than any alternative.
MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), preface to Electroshock:
Restoring the Mind, 1999. Fink dedicated his book “To Ladislas Meduna, originator of
convulsive therapy; and to the patients and their families who participated freely in the
studies that established this effective treatment for the mentally ill.” Meduna introduced
metrazol convulsive treatment in Budapest in 1934. Patients’ while before being
prepared for a metrazol session have been described in professional journals: “One
patient refused to undress. A second one complained that he ‘didn’t want to die.’ A third
patient asked why we wanted to ‘kill her.’ Physical resistance is shown not only by the
refusal of certain patients to go to bed, but in many instances by combativeness…. Such
statements as, ‘These treatments scare me to death.’ ‘Please don’t do that to me,’ and
other tearful and frightened protests are frequent” (WILLIAM C. MENNINGER [U.S.
psychiatrist and past president of the American Psychiatric Association], “The Results
with Metrazol as an Adjunct Therapy in Schizophrenia and Depression,” Bulletin of the
Menninger Clinic, September 1938).

1999 — Although a patient’s symptoms often resolve dramatically after a few treatments,
a sustained recovery requires a greater number. For decades we were so concerned
about the possibility of detrimental effects on memory that we restricted the treatments
to the least number needed to achieve a discernable improvement. As a consequence,
benefits were not sustained and the relapse rate was painfully high. Illness can recur in
up to 20 percent of depressed patients within one month and in up to 50 percent within
six months of a short course of treatment, even though antidepressants drugs are
continued. For those with delusional depression, the relapse rates are higher. Now we
routinely prescribe longer courses of treatment, followed by continuation ECT or
continuation pharmacotherapy. A complete course of treatment usually takes at least six


MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), Electroshock: Restoring
the Mind, ch. 2, 1999.
See Harold Sackeim’s first entry in 2001 below.

Electroshock: Restoring the Mind / 1999

Max Fink

1999 — It is essential to note that halting ECT prematurely is the main cause of
recurrence [relapse].
MAX FINK, Electroshock: Restoring the Mind, ch. 2, 1999.

1999 — Repetitive compulsive acts mark a number of abnormal mental states — the
hand-washing by patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, the symbolic slashing of
wrists in patients with borderline personality disorder, and the repetitive face-
scratching and head-banging of patients with mental retardation. These movement
syndromes are occasionally responsive to electroshock.
MAX FINK, Electroshock: Restoring the Mind, ch. 8, 1999.

1999 — Although ECT and most other somatic therapies have been attacked by the
antipsychiatry movement, it must be remembered that vigorous opponents of psychiatry
existed in Europe and America for hundreds of years. The causes for such antagonisms
are many. They include the ignorance, prejudice, and emotional bias of single-minded
individuals obsessed with the idea of attacking psychiatry. The spokesmen for the
antipsychiatry groups include writers, former patients (not all of whom have fully
recovered), physicians, legislators, and several prominent antipsychiatry psychiatrists,
most notably Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing.
ZIGMOND M. LEBENSOHN (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “The History of
Electroconvulsive Therapy in the United States and Its Place in American Psychiatry: A
Personal Memoir,” Comprehensive Psychiatry, May-June 1999. Szasz has frequently


denied being “antipsychiatry” which he has attacked in his writings, most notably in
Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry, 1976.

2000 — By participating with fellow residents in inhuman acts, such as ECT and forced
drugging, psychiatrists become bonded in a way reminiscent of the Nazi practice of
sending young SS officers to concentration camps where they would collaborate in
torturing prisoners. The Nazis called this bonding “blutkitt,” literally “blood cement.”
Afterwards, the SS officers would be assigned to local police stations where they’d
brutalize other prisoners without compunction and with the encouragement of officers
with similar backgrounds. Dostoevsky put it this way in The Possessed (1871): “All that
business of titles and sentimentalism is a very good cement, but there is something
better; persuade four members of the circle to do [in] a fifth on the pretense that he is a
traitor, and you’ll tie [the four of them] together with the blood they’ve shed as though it
were a knot. They’ll be your slaves, they won’t dare to rebel or call you to account.”
JOHN BREEDING (U.S. psychologist), The Necessity of Madness and
Unproductivity: Psychiatric Oppression or Human Transformation, ch. 6, 2000.
Compare: “Psychiatric training, above all else, is the ritualized indoctrination of the
young physician into the theory and practice of psychiatric violence” (THOMAS S.
SZASZ [Hungarian-born U.S. psychiatrist], “Psychiatry,” The Second Sin, 1973).

As psychiatrists, [electroshock specialists] believe themselves to be helpers. Challengers
to this belief are a threat. Countless psychiatric survivors will attest to the fact that
psychiatrists are apt to feel resentful toward those patients who can’t or are unwilling to
be helped by them. Administering ECT to such patients, or referring them to someone
who will, is a quick, easy, and often profitable way for psychatrists to vent their anger on
them. At the same time, punishing (with ECT) those patients who do not see them as
helpers strengthens the psychiatrists’ conviction that they are.
JOHN BREEDING, The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity: Psychiatric
Oppression or Human Transformation, ch. 6, 2000.

2000 — Individuals who have undergone ECT report horrific emotional distress
resulting from this procedure. Physical and cognitive debilitation, together with intense
fear, shame and hopelessness make life and recovery a tremendous challenge for many
people who undergo this procedure. My own clients have reported years of fearful
avoidance of medical doctors after undergoing electroshock. The fear is so great that
they neglect their physical medical needs, rather than go to a doctor. Electroshock
survivors often have recurrent nightmares about the electroshock or about symbolic
forms of torture and death. One client recently shared with me that the reading of
testimonials from Holocaust survivors was a key to her recovery; she finally found
people whose depth of emotional pain and anguish was similar to her own. This helped
her to overcome some of the shame and stigmatization, and to begin walking through
the isolation that so many psychiatric survivors experience after their “treatment.”
JOHN BREEDING, The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity: Psychiatric
Oppression or Human Transformation, ch. 9, 2000.


2000 — Public policy should move toward the elimination of electroconvulsive therapy
and psychosurgery as unproven and inherently inhumane procedures. Effective humane
alternatives to these techniques exist now and should be promoted.
NATIONAL COUNCIL ON DISABILITY (an independent federal agency which
advises the government on disability policy), recommendation in a report titled From
Privileges to Rights: People Labeled with Psychiatric Disabilities Speak for
Themselves, 20 January 2000.

2001 — In her novel, Beloved, Toni Morrison describes the farm where her character
grew up as a slave: “It never looked as terrible as it was and it made her wonder if Hell
was a pretty place too. Fire and brimstone all right, but hidden in lacy groves. Boys
hanging from the most beautiful sycamores in the world.”

Boys hanging dead from the most beautiful sycamores in the world. Unconscious,
brain-damaged patients lying on electroshock tables in the most impressive psychiatric
institutions doing electroshock research funded by the government of the United States
through the most prestigious National Institute of Mental Health.

Boys hanging, dead. Victims of forced electroshock, brains damaged, memory lost,
potential healing suppressed, sometimes dead.

At the dawn of the 20th century in the United States, a black Southerner died at the
hands of a white mob more than once a week. Society accepted the practice; some
newspapers not only covered lynchings, but even advertised them. At the dawn of the
21st century, psychiatrists electroshock about 2,000 United States citizens every week.
Society accepts the practice; the media not only covers it, but even promotes it.

Just as brave leaders and activists won civil rights legislation that led to a massive
decline in the dehumanizing and degrading practice of racism, activists are now
challenging the brutal practice of electroshock. Through the good efforts of this
committee, New York’s legislature now has the opportunity to enact a landmark law
regulating and restricting the use of electroshock which hopefully will lead one day to
the abolition of this procedure, and thereby the establishment of a more just and
humane society.
JOHN BREEDING (U.S. psychologist), closing paragraphs, testimony at a hearing on
ECT before the New York Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental
Retardation, and Developmental Disabilities, New York City, 18 May 2001. A bill
regulating ECT eventually passed out of the Committee but the New York State
legislature voted it down.

2001 — [There exists] a phenomenon that this writer has rarely seen addressed:
neurologists’ virtual silence about the topic of ECT. Given that neurologists are the
officially recognized experts on the nervous system and on the effects of brain injuries,
this silence ranks as a most remarkable omission. Every year in the United States, at
least 100,000 persons receive series of electrically-induced seizures prescribed by one
medical discipline while another medical discipline — which recognizes seizures as one
of the most significant traumas to the brain — does not comment on the practice.
DAVID COHEN (U.S. professor of social work), “Electroconvulsive Treatment,
Neurology, and Psychiatry,” Ethical Human Sciences and Services, Summer 2001.


2001 — The results of ECT in treating severe depression are among the most positive
treatment effects in all of medicine…. For the sake of the many patients with major
depression and their families, it is time to bring ECT out of the shadows.
RICHARD GLASS (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Electroconvulsive Therapy: Time
to Bring It Out of the Shadows” (editorial), Journal of the American Medical
Association, 14 March 2001.

2001 — Shock treatment may have contributed to the sudden death of a psychiatric
patient at Graylands Hospital [near Perth, Western Australia]. Giovanni Mario Franco
was a physically fit 30-year-old when he was admitted to Graylands in February 1998 to
be treated for schizophrenia. But on March 10 he died suddenly in a locked ward under
the constant watch of two nurses. Mr. Franco had undergone electroconvulsive therapy

— known as ECT or shock therapy — a day before he died. At an inquest into the death
this week, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vickers was told it was possible the shock
treatment caused his heart to stop beating….
Forensic pathologist Dr. Gerard Cadden told the inquest Mr. Franco died from
undetermined causes but the most likely explanation was cardiac dysrhythmia — a
catastrophic interference to a normal heartbeat. Asked if the fatal heart failure could
have resulted from the shock therapy, Dr. Cadden replied: “Yes, it could have caused
dysrhythmia.” He said the cause could never be conclusively determined, though,
because dysrhythmia left no medical traces. Mr. Franco had no history of heart
problems and an autopsy revealed his heart was normal….

Electroconvulsive therapy is routinely used in [Western Australian] psychiatric
institutions despite concerns about its safety. Treatment involves sending bursts of up to
460 volts into the patient’s brain. Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
spokesman Dr. Paul Skerritt said ECT was a widely accepted treatment for depression
and other conditions. “This is not a treatment from the dark ages,” he said. It does not
do the brain any harm.
JIM KELLY (Australian journalist), “Shock Death Link,” Sunday Times (Western
Australia), 21 January 2001.

2001 — Conclusions: Our study indicates that without active treatment, virtually all
remitted patients [i.e., those patients whose symptoms diminished following ECT]
relapse within 6 months of stopping ECT. Monotherapy with nortriptyline [a tricyclic
antidepressant drug whose trade name is Pamelor] has limited efficacy. The
combination of nortriptyline and lithium is more effective, but the relapse rate is still
high, particularly during the first month of continuation therapy.
HAROLD A. SACKEIM (U.S. electroshock psychologist) et al., abstract for
“Continuation Pharmacotherapy in the Prevention of Relapse Following
Electroconvulsive Therapy,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 14 March
2001. Of the 290 patients diagnosed with “major depression” who underwent ECT, 58
qualified for participation in the continuation study. They were placed in three groups:
84 percent of the group given sugar pills (placebos) relapsed within 6 months; as did 60
percent of the nortriptyline group and 39 percent of the nortriptyline-lithium group.

See Max Fink’s second entry in 1999 above.


2001 — A very rare number of patients may experience marked retrograde amnesia as a
result of ECT. There is no firm estimate on this incidence but my estimate would be on
the order of 1 in 500 patients.

Careful scientific study has shown that ECT does not cause brain damage (cellular
death). Indeed, the conditions under which seizures in humans cause brain damage are
sufficiently described to know that this cannot occur with ECT. To the contrary, all
antidepressant treatments promote the development of new neurons (brain cells), a
recently discovered fact.
HAROLD A. SACKEIM, written testimony at a hearing on ECT before the New York
Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and
Developmental Disabilities, New York City, 18 May 2001.
See Sackeim’s comment in the citation of the American Psychiatric Association’s third entry in 1990
above; and Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.

2001 — ECS [ECT] unquestionably damages the brain. The damage is due to a variety of
known mechanisms:

1) ECS is designed to evoke a grand mal epileptic seizure involving massive excitation
of cortical neurons that also deliver excitation to lower brain structures. The seizure
causes an acute rise in blood pressure well into the hypertensive range, and this
frequently causes small hemorrhages in the brain. Wherever a hemorrhage occurs in the
brain, nerve cells die — and nerve cells are not replaced.

2) ECS ruptures the “blood-brain barrier.” This barrier normally prevents many
substances in the blood from reaching the brain. This protects the brain, which is our
most chemically sensitive organ, from a variety of potential insults. Where this barrier is
breached, nerve cells are exposed to insult and may also die. Rupture of this barrier also
leads to brain “edema” (swelling), which, since the brain is enclosed by the rigid skull,
leads to local arrest of blood supply, anoxia [lack of oxygen], and neuron death.

3) ECS causes neurons to release large quantities of the neurotransmitter, glutamate.
This chemical excites further neuronal activity which releases more glutamate, leading
to “excito-toxicity” — neurons literally die due to overactivity. Such excito-toxicity has
been recognized relatively recently and is now a major topic of research. It is known to
accompany seizures and over repeated episodes of ECS may be a significant contributor
to accumulated brain damage.
PETER STERLING (U.S. professor of neuroscience), written testimony for a hearing
on ECT before the New York Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental
Retardation, and Developmental Disabilities, New York City, 18 May 2001. Sterling’s
testimony was dated 31 May 2001.
See Alpers and Hughes’s entry in 1942, Manfred Sakel’s in 1956, David Impastato’s first entry (citing 66
ECT deaths from “cerebral” causes) in 1957, Weinstein and Fischer’s entry in 1971, American Psychiatric
Association’s in 1978, Lee Coleman’s in 1978, Max Fink’s in 1978, Peter Breggin’s in 1981, Sidney Sament’s
in 1983, Glen Peterson’s in 1989, American Psychiatric Association’s first entry in 1990, Leonard Frank’s
in 1990, Hugh Polk’s entry in 1993, Breggin’s in 1998, and Harold Sackeim’s in 2001 above.

2002 — [Electroshock] is a brutal, dehumanizing, memory-destroying, intelligence-
lowering, brain-damaging, brainwashing, life-threatening technique. ECT robs people of
their memories, their personality and their humanity. It reduces their capacity to lead
full, meaningful lives; it crushes their spirits. Put simply, electroshock is a method for


gutting the brain in order to control and punish people who fall or step out of line, and
intimidate others who are on the verge of doing so.
LEONARD ROY FRANK (U.S. electroshock survivor and editor), “Electroshock: A
Crime Against the Spirit,” Ethical Human Sciences and Services: An International
Journal of Critical Inquiry, Spring 2002.

2002 — The federal government stands by passively as psychiatrists continue to
electroshock American citizens in direct violation of some of their most fundamental
freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion,
freedom of speech, freedom from assault, and freedom from cruel and unusual
punishment. The government also actively supports ECT through the licensing and
funding of hospitals where the procedure is used, by covering ECT costs in its insurance
programs (including Medicare), and by financing ECT research, including some of the
most damaging ECT techniques ever devised. One recent study provides an example of
such research. This ECT experiment was conducted at Wake Forest University School of
Medicine/North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Winston-Salem, between 1995 and 1998. It
involved the use of electric current at up to 12 times the individual’s convulsive
threshold on 36 depressed patients…. This reckless disregard for the safety of ECT
subjects was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.
LEONARD ROY FRANK, “Electroshock: A Crime Against the Spirit,” Ethical Human
Sciences and Service, Spring 2002. The Wake Forest ECT study was reported in W.
Vaughn McCall, David M. Reboussin, Richard D. Weiner, and Harold A. Sackeim,
“Titrated Moderately Suprathreshold vs Fixed High-Dose Right Unilateral
Electroconvulsive Therapy,” Archives of General Psychiatry, May 2000.

See Frank’s first entry in 1990 above.

2002 — Electroshock could never have become a major psychiatric procedure without
the active collusion and silent acquiescence of tens of thousands of psychiatrists and
other health professionals. Many of them know better; all of them should know better.
The active and passive cooperation of the media has also played an essential role in
expanding the use of electroshock. Amidst a barrage of propaganda from the psychiatric
profession, the media passes on the claims of ECT proponents almost without challenge.
The occasional critical articles are one-shot affairs with no follow-up, which the public
quickly forgets. With so much controversy surrounding this procedure, one would think
that some investigative reporters would key on to the story, but until now this has been
only a rare occurrence. And the silence continues to drown out the voices of those who
need to be heard. I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from Birmingham
City Jail,” in which he wrote, “We shall have to repent in this generation not merely for
the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the
good people.”
LEONARD ROY FRANK, “Electroshock: A Crime Against the Spirit,” Ethical Human
Sciences and Services, Spring 2002.

2003 — Two years ago, Cao Maobing attempted to organize his fellow workers at a state-
owned silk factory into a trade union. He was sent to the No. 4 psychiatric hospital in
Yancheng [China] the day after he spoke to Western reporters. His fellow workers,
according to an American who knows Cao, described him warmly: “Mr. Cao is an


upright, kind, and law-abiding citizen. He is a brave and intelligent worker. He made a
lot of personal sacrifice to help other workers to uphold their right to basic living.” Cao’s
wife said he was being forcibly medicated. “He’s absolutely not insane and refuses to
take the medicine. But eventually they force him to take it.” She said she was told to
leave the hospital after her husband was medicated. According to other reports, he was
also given electroshock treatment on several occasions. Cao was released after six
months and has never returned to trade union activity.
JONATHAN MIRSKY (U.S. journalist), “China’s Psychiatric Terror,” New York
Review of Books, 27 February 2003.

2003 — Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). When depression is severe, the patient is
suicidal and other therapies have not been effective, ECT can help. Electrical impulses
are delivered to the brain via electrodes applied to the head. It sounds scary, but it is
painless and a lot better than living the rest of your life seriously depressed.
ISADORE ROSENFELD (U.S. physician), “Come Out from Under Your Cloud,”
Parade Magazine, 5 October 2003. This was Rosenfeld’s complete description of ECT in
an article on the nature, causes and treatment of depression. His column on medical
issues appears regularly in Parade.

2004 — Baghdad. Electric shock treatment is usually administered without anesthetic at
Iraq’s biggest psychiatric hospital.

Only 16 doctors treat 900 patients. Mortar rounds land in the courtyard, traumatizing
the unstable.

But there is still a glimmer of hope at Baghdad’s Al-Rashad Teaching Psychiatric
Hospital, a sprawling facility caught between U.S. troops and guerrillas that is
recovering from post-war looters who raped patients last year.

With clean facilities, workshops and job programs for patients, it hopes to ease the
anguish of mental illness in a city plagued by violence that offers little sanity outside….

“We really need anesthetics. We have to conduct electric shock treatment two to three
times a week and we hardly have anything for the pain,” said Dr. Yasser Abdullah.
MICHAEL GEORGY (British journalist), “Psychiatric Hospital Struggles to Heal in
Iraq,” Reuters,, 21 June 2004.

2005 — A South Carolina woman has become the first survivor of electroconvulsive
therapy to win a jury verdict and a large money judgment in compensation for extensive
permanent amnesia and cognitive disability caused by the procedure.

Peggy S. Salters, 60, sued Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, as well as the
three doctors responsible for her care. As the result of an intensive course of outpatient
ECT in 2000, she lost all memories of the past 30 years of her life, including all
memories of her husband of three decades, now deceased, and the births of her three
children. Ms. Salters held a Masters of Science in nursing and had a long career as a
psychiatric nurse, but lost her knowledge of nursing skills and was unable to return to
work after ECT.

The jury awarded her $635,177 in compensation for her inability to work. The
malpractice verdict was against the referring doctor, Eric Lewkowiez. The jury could not
return a verdict against the other two doctors because of one holdout vote for acquittal.
The hospital settled its liability for an undisclosed sum early in the trial.


LINDA ANDRE (U.S. electroshock survivor and writer), press release from, 7 July 2005. The title of the case, 03CP4004797, is Peggy S. Salters v.
Palmetto Health Alliance Inc., d/b/a/ Palmetto Baptist Medical Center; Robert
Schackenberg, M.D. , individually; Eric Lewkowiez, M.D., individually; Columbia
Psychiatric Associates, P.A.; and Kenneth Huggins, M.D., individually. It was filed in
Richland County, South Carolina on 3 October 2003 and decided 17 June 2005. The
attorney for Ms. Salters was Mark W. Hardee of Columbia, SC.

See Andre’s entries in 1984 above and Max Fink’s entry immediately below.

2005 — There are no absolute limits on the low side or to the high side if you’re going to
give a patient [electroconvulsive] treatment…. I have personally treated patients twice a
day. And there was a time when I gave patients eight treatments in one sitting, you
know, on an experiment that we did many years ago. So, yes, I have treated patients
with eight seizures in a morning…. It was called multiple monitored ECT. It was a
government-supported project in an effort to find out if we can speed up the response”
[ellipsis in original].
MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), deposition in the Salters
case, 24 May 2005, quoted in Linda Andre, “First Victory in ECT Lawsuit! Jury Awards
Survivor $635,177,” ShockWaves (“The Newsletter of the Committee for Truth in
Psychiatry”; CTIP, P.O. Box 1214, New York, NY 10003), May 2006.

See Linda Andre’s entry immediately above.

2005 — There is no official count, but in 1996 the estimate was that 100,000 patients
per year were being treated with ECT in the United States…. If you take the 100,000
estimate per year and each patient gets an average of 10 treatments, that’s about 1
million treatments in 1996….

It is reasonable for child psychiatrists who are not wedded to psychodynamic
thinking to consider ECT in children and adolescents with the illnesses for which ECT is
used in adults….

Over the 70-plus [sic] years that ECT has been around, we have learned to appreciate
that something magical happens in the body when we produce an epileptic fit….

In 1991, I was invited to go on a lecture tour in Holland. I gave seven lectures in five
days at different universities and hospitals, and they were all about ECT. At that time,
ECT use in Holland was the lowest in Europe. It was almost impossible to get the
treatment. In January of this year, I went to a meeting in Brussels. A Dutch speaker
described a significant use of ECT in Holland. In fact, they got so interested that the
Dutch have published numerous research articles and a handbook of ECT. The same has
happened in Germany and Austria, where usage has increased and a new German text
has been published.
MAX FINK, quoted in Arline Kaplan, “Through the Times with Max Fink, M.D.,”
Psychiatric Times, September 2005. According to Kaplan, “Fink believes that now the
numbers being treated in the United States are beyond 100,000 patients per year, and
he sees a revival of ECT in Europe as well.” Fink reported, in Kaplan’s paraphrase, that
the “American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has published a practice
parameter for the use of ECT with adolescents. The authors [of a 2004 article published
in the Academy’s journal] concluded it may be an effective treatment for adolescents


with severe mood disorders and other Axis I psychiatric disorders when more
conservative treatments have been unsuccessful.”

2005 — Psychiatry’s diagnostic system obscures the reality of the individual’s problems.
Psychiatry’s use of involuntary commitment and forced “treatment” constitutes an
attack on everyone’s human rights. Electroshock is a particularly vicious psychiatric
technique because it reaches into and explodes the very core of who we are.

Since the time of Hippocrates, more than 2,000 years ago, physicians have tried to
discover methods for controlling or curing the disease of epilepsy, and along come the
psychiatrists and setting reason on its head induce epileptic-like seizures as a fake
treatment for fake diseases.

Solving life’s problems, now given psychiatric labels, calls for compassion,
understanding and support not psychiatric violence as epitomized by electroshock.
PETER LEHMANN (European psychiatric survivor and founder of Peter Lehmann
Publishing and Mail-Order Bookstore at, personal
communication, 16 December 2005.

2005 — How much does an electroshock cost? Oh, about 50 cents for the meds, maybe a
nickel for the electricity — and a lifetime of regret and disability for the victim.
GARY MOORE (U.S. electroshock survivor), email to John Breeding, 11 October 2005.

2005 — For the last 15 years or so, nobody has been speaking about electroshock in
Switzerland. Even among professionals, except for the ECT psychiatrists themselves,
there is hardly any knowledge about the current practice of this “treatment.” During the
1970s, psychiatrists noisily declared that electroshock was a very effective treatment,
especially for depressed people. This “beneficial treatment” then fell into disrepute and
for a while there were in real terms fewer people being electroshocked. Psychiatrists
attributed this to a dishonest press campaign carried out by critics of psychiatry.
Starting around 1985, however, and with little public awareness, the number of people
being electroshocked began to rise and has continued rising ever since. One might speak
of the silent comeback of electroshock.

There are good reasons for this silence: most people think of cruelty, torture and
electrocution when they hear the word electroshock. Nearly everyone feels horror and
dread when they imagine someone being administered electroshocks. The same must be
true for psychiatrists, at least before they begin their specialized training. It is during
this training that they learn to suppress their feelings more and more. This results in the
gap between themselves and their patients becoming larger and larger. This gap
separates not only the sane and the insane, the normal and the abnormal, but also the
powerful and the powerless. This gap enables psychiatrists (and other people) to project
everything in themselves that is disturbing and frightening, everything they dislike
about themselves, onto the so-called mad people where it can be dealt with by any
means they choose, including deception and violence. This blaming of others prevents
empathy, understanding, and appreciation of the truth that we are all creatures of value

— equal value.
Violence has always been a remedy, a false remedy, against fear. The powerful are
especially fearful of those they cannot control. In modern society, the “lunatic” is
emblematic of all the uncontrollables. Psychiatrists have developed the tools of control,


really weapons of violence passed off as medical treatments. With these tools they are
able to control, manipulate and destroy to a greater or lesser extent the intellectual and
emotional capacities of the uncontrollables, now fixed with stigmatizing psychiatric
labels, and so reduce their own fears and at the same time satisfy their sadistic impulses.

The true nature of electroshock becomes obvious when one considers that outside of
psychiatry applying electricity to any part of a human body is immediately perceived as
a method of torture.
MARC RUFER (Swiss psychiatrist), personal communication, 24 December 2005.

2005 — Turkey’s psychiatric hospitals are riddled with horrific abuses, including the use
of raw electroshock as a form of punishment, according to [a newly published report by
Mental Disability Rights International, a Washington-based group]….

[Modified ECT] is normally administered with anesthesia and muscle relaxants.

Without them it can be painful, terrifying and dangerous. Patients can break jaws or
crack vertebrae during the induced seizures. The report quotes a 28-year old patient at
Bakirkoy Psychiatric Hospital in Istanbul as saying, “I felt like dying.”…

The human rights group estimated that unmodified shock treatment was used on
nearly a third of patients undergoing psychiatric crises at the government hospitals,
including children as young as 9….

“If we use anesthesia the ECT won’t be as effective, because they won’t feel
punishment,” the report quotes the director of the electroconvulsive therapy center as
CRAIG S. SMITH (U.S. journalist), “Abuse of Electroshock Found in Turkish Mental
Hospitals,” New York Times, 29 September 2005. An editorial on the MDRI report in
the Times the next day disclosed that “The staff in one institution told investigators that
children who cannot feed themselves are left to starve to death.”

2005 — The magnitude of the atrocity is too great to communicate. That’s why it’s the
perfect crime.
RICH WINKEL (U.S. electroshock survivor and computer programmer), referring to
electroshock,, 2 February 2005.

See Max Fink’s entry in 1996 above.

2006 — Roky [Erickson’s] biggest battle was not with “schizophrenia,” but with those
who called him that and treated him accordingly. Schizophrenia is a psychiatric garbage
term for disturbed or disturbing behavior that is considered beyond the pale. The label
“schizophrenia” is a justification for actions which almost destroyed Roky. [The labeling
led to his being subjected to forced treatment.]… For an estimated 1.5 million Americans
each year, forced treatment means an immense violation of liberty — unwilling
incarceration in a psychiatric hospital. For the vast majority, including Roky Erickson, it
also means forced drugging. For so-called schizophrenia, that means with neuroleptic
drugs, which are known to have caused the largest epidemic of neurological disease in
the history of the world – tardive dyskinesia. In Roky’s case, another standard
psychiatric treatment, electroshock (also known as electroconvulsive treatment) was
forcibly administered, repeatedly. By all rights, Erickson should have been destroyed by
psychiatry; his recovery is truly miraculous.
JOHN BREEDING (U.S. psychologist), letter to Austin Chronicle, 23 January 2006,

145 Erickson, an Austin
(Texas) musician, had his own band, the 13th Floor Elevators, in the early 1980s. After
being sidelined for many years, he made a comeback in 2005. In his 11th appearance
that year, he played to a packed house in Austin’s Shoal Creek Saloon.


Protest Electroshock at
Seton Shoal Creek Hospital!
12 Noon, Monday, April 24th
Seiders Spring Park(38th and Shoal Creek, adjacent to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital on the north side)
You may have thought that electroshock (aka shock therapy, electroconvulsive
treatment or ECT) had been relegated to history’s junk heap. WRONG! And it’s
happening right here in Austin, where 208 people were electroshock two years ago
(data not in from last year). At Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, one of the largest
electroshock centers in Texas, 183 underwent this procedure which has been called an
“electrical lobotomy.”
Protest Electroshock at
Seton Shoal Creek Hospital!
12 Noon, Monday, April 24th
Seiders Spring Park(38th and Shoal Creek, adjacent to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital on the north side)
You may have thought that electroshock (aka shock therapy, electroconvulsive
treatment or ECT) had been relegated to history’s junk heap. WRONG! And it’s
happening right here in Austin, where 208 people were electroshock two years ago
(data not in from last year). At Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, one of the largest
electroshock centers in Texas, 183 underwent this procedure which has been called an
“electrical lobotomy.”
For more information, call 512/799-3610

2006 — Anti-Shock Activism in Texas. In the fall of 2005, a small group of Austin-area
activists created the Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas [CAEST]. Our
mission is simple and one-pointed: We are committed to abolishing the cruel and
destructive practice of electroshock in Texas, and we will not rest until we do!

Our steering committee of six, including two of our heroes, electroshock survivors
Diann’a Loper and Gary Moore, started meeting every Friday. We patterned ourselves
on the principles of Gandhian political resistance, including nonviolent direct action,
truthfulness, transparency, open-ended negotiation, and respect for one’s opponents.

We established an international network of allies and advisers — activists,
electroshock survivors, and legal and medical advisers. Our initial goal is to stop the use
of electroshock in our home community. Each year, more than 1,6oo people are
electroshocked at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital and St. David’s Hospital in Austin. As
Seton Shoal Creek is the greater offender, we chose to address that hospital first.

We began by establishing direct communication with the Board of the Daughters of
Charity Health Services of Austin, which operates Seton. We explained in a letter who
we are and requested a meeting. We stated our belief that the practice of electroshock is
a glaring insult to Seton’s stated mission to care for and improve people’s health.

The Board referred us to Seton’s medical director, psychiatrist Paul Whitelock, with
whom we met on February 15, 2006. Dr. Whitelock agreed to review the materials on
electroshock we gave him. In the meantime, we also met with local state legislators
including Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez, city council member Betty Dunkerly,
and Patricia Brown, president of the Travis County Hospital District, all of whom
contacted Seton to inquire about their use of electroshock. We tried to see the Board
chair, Sister Helen Brewer, but so far she has refused to meet with us. She did indicate,
however, that the Board will be considering a presentation on the issue by Dr.

After publicizing the event via Jack Blood’s local radio program, “Deadline Live,” and
on the Austin Free Radio network, and posting flyers all around town, we held our first
public event on April 24, a protest rally at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital. We had a good
turnout and marched with our placards to and in front of the hospital as passing drivers
honked their horns in support. The crowd enthusiastically chanted slogans calling for
the end of shock at Seton. It was a wonderful scene of protest against violence disguised
as medical treatment.

The march was followed by a number of speakers. I told the protesters that the first
American-born Catholic saint, known as Mother Seton (1774-1821), after whom the
hospital was named, had resisted pressure to take an opium derivative for her profound
anguish and depression. I shared the following in my follow-up letter to Sister Helen:

“It seems a tragic irony to me that Mother Seton’s legacy includes electroshocking our
brothers and sisters because they are ‘depressed.’ There is a vast, impassable distance
between LOVING CARE — nurturance, compassion, healing, and ELECTROSHOCK —
brain damage, memory loss, death. Electroshock is an egregious affront to the Seton

Featuring on-site interviews with several of the protesters, KOOP community radio
profiled the rally later that week. Mike Williams photographed the entire event
(including the picture immediately below). A 48-minute video documentary filmed by
Mary Luker aired on community television channel 16 on May 12th.


In the first week of May, we announced the posting on our website of Leonard Roy
Frank’s Electroshock Quotationary, an important addition to the literature on
electroshock. Allen Davisson created for us a great website, that
tells about CAEST’s mission, history, and activities in addition to providing a variety of
key documents on electroshock.

CAEST is continuing its activism: plans are in the works to increase the pressure on
Seton Shoal Creek Hospital to halt its use of electroshock.
JOHN BREEDING, personal communication, 23 May 2006.

Mike Williams

John Breeding with marchers at a rally sponsored by The Coalition for
the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas (CAEST) protesting the use of
electroshock at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin, 24 April 2006

2006 — Women are subjected to electroshock 2 to 3 times as often as men. To cite as
examples statistics from different eras and locations, a 1974 study of electroshock in
Massachusetts reported in Grosser (1975) revealed that 69% of those shocked were
women. By the same token, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act
(Weitz, 2001) show that for the year 1999-2000 in Ontario, Canada, 71% of the patients
given ECT in provincial psychiatric institutions were women…. Another statistic that
seems relevant is that approximately 95% of all shock doctors are male (Grobe, 1995).
Factor in these statistics and a frightening and indeed antiwoman picture of ECT
emerges: Overwhelmingly, it is women’s brains and lives that are being violated by
shock. Overwhelmingly, it is women’s brains, memory, and intellectual functioning
that are seen as dispensable. Insofar as people are being terrorized, punished, and
controlled, overwhelmingly those people are women. And what is likely not coincidental,
almost all the people making the determinations and wreaking the damage are men….


[At public hearings] woman after woman maintained that despite the rationales used,
the real purpose of the electroshock was social control. Cognitive impairment or
memory loss was frequently identified as the means. The implicit rationale is: What
cannot be remembered cannot be repeated or acted on.

ECT appears to be effective in the way abuse is always effective: by inspiring fear of
further violation. There is evidence, additionally, that a vicious cycle sets in, with ECT
used to stop women from complaining about the effects of ECT. Many women testified
that they were chastised when they spoke of the treatments making them worse, were
ordered to stop “acting out,” and were warned that continued complaints would be
interpreted as illness and would result in further “treatment.”…

Electroshock is a part of the repertoire of the patriarchy; and it functions as a
fundamental patriarchal assault on women’s brains, bodies, and spirits. It is an assault
that has much in common with traditional battery. It is traumatizing, even traumatizing
“patients” who only witness it. It controls women and, indeed, is used to control women.
It combines with other forms of violence against women. It is a special threat to women
who are severely violated and is used to silence women. As such, its very use is a
feminist issue.
BONNIE BURSTOW (Canadian feminist psychotherapist and lecturer), “Electroshock
as a Form of Violence Against Women,” Journal of Violence Against Women, April
2006. The three references cited in the first paragraph above are: G. H. Grosser, “The
Regulation of Electroshock Treatment in Massachusetts,” Massachusetts Journal of
Mental Health, vol. 5, 1975; Don Weitz, “Ontario Electroshock Statistics” (unpublished),
2001; and Jeanine Grobe, Beyond Bedlam, 1995 (see Janet Gotkin’s entry in 1995

2006 — The March of the Damned. In the last decade, I have had the opportunity to
listen to the many voices of the electroshock experience. There exist several
commonalities, including a thirst for information.

Usually, a sense of bewilderment accompanies this need to know more.

The movie title Dazed and Confused brings to mind teenagers experimenting with
drugs, but the phrase perfectly describes the majority of the ECT patients who find their
way to the discussion board at, the website I’ve run for more than ten years.

They are dazed and confused, wondering what has happened and why.

The medical industry continues to market a “new and improved” electroshock, selling
an endless stream of new customers on the benefits of unilateral ECT, high-tech
machines with impressive dials and buttons, and fewer side effects. But in the end, after
the final treatment, the results are the same as they’ve always been. The hype of new
technology, better science, and better training is exposed for the lie it is: the new ECT is
the old ECT only in a prettier package.

Day after day, the dazed and confused knock on the door of, seeking answers,
hungry for the information they were never given. I sit at my computer, a virtual door,
and watch them continue to march in, one by one. It never stops and it never gets better;
it’s my own viewing of the march of the damned.

Patients are not routinely given adequate information when making a decision to
have ECT (if indeed they are given a choice at all). Doctors recite their mantra, that
today’s ECT is safer, and that memory loss is a thing of the past. Some blatantly lie and
tell patients it will cure their depression. Others simply lie by omission, failing to give


patients full disclosure of what lies ahead.

And so they join the march of the damned and then find that not only did the ECT not
fix their lives, it added to their litany of problems. A few weeks beyond the last ECT, as
the fog lifts just enough to begin to comprehend that this might not be the miracle
promised, the questions begin. Typically, the doctor’s answer is more ECT: maintenance
ECT, ongoing ECT, continuation therapy, almost always accompanied by powerful,
mind-bending psychiatric drugs.

Rarely will a doctor confront the patient’s basic question: what happened? Where’s
the miracle? The answer belongs to the patient: blame. The patient is misremembering;
it’s the mental illness; the depression is causing the problems — or, the patient is simply
a troublemaker.

Contemporary ECT has more bells and whistles than the ECT of many decades ago,
but the results remain the same and the complaints haven’t changed.

Doctors are able to dazzle their patients with new vocabulary — “synapses,”
“serotonin,” “neurotransmitters,” and the like. More than sixty years later, however,
ECT doctors still find their dictionaries missing the words disclosure and honesty. The
spin has changed, but the march of the damned continues forward.
JULI LAWRENCE (U.S. electroshock survivor and human rights activist), personal
communication, 24 January 2006. Lawrence underwent ECT 12 times at St. Elizabeth’s
Hospital, Belleville, Illinois, in 1994. Her is the most important and heavily
trafficked ECT website on the Internet.

2006 — MindFreedom International has a number of ongoing campaigns that challenge
human rights violations involving the use of electroshock. The MindFreedom board of
directors has a long-standing position opposing the medical use of electroshock because
the practice is inherently a human rights violation.

Over the years, MindFreedom has focused on specific examples of these human rights
violations, including the use of forced electroshock, fraudulent informed consent, and
coercion by the withholding of humane and safe alternatives to shock.

Here is a brief summary of current campaign activities:

.. International: For several years MindFreedom has brought up issues involving
human rights in the mental health system with the World Health Organization (WHO).
During this period there have been several personal meetings with Dr. Benedetto
Saraceno, director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.
MindFreedom also organized a campaign to have people write, fax and e-mail WHO
headquarters about these issues.
As a result, staff at WHO have repeatedly credited MindFreedom with making several
changes at WHO. At MindFreedom’s request, WHO has publicly stated that human
rights in mental health amount to a “global crisis” and that this problem stems from the
mental health system itself, not just from a lack of mental health care.

MindFreedom then asked WHO to be more specific. WHO has stated in written
materials and in public statements that it officially opposes all forced or involuntary
electroshock against the expressed wishes of the subject. Dr. Saraceno has publicly
credited MindFreedom with influencing WHO to take this firm public position.

This is the first major government or health authority we know of to take such a clear
position, without exception, on forced shock. Of course, this is a small first step, and


nowhere near enough: we need to alert all nations that the world’s highest health
authority favors banning forced electroshock and has put that position in writing.

.. Oregon: MindFreedom is based in Eugene, Oregon, where we continue our 20-year
local campaign of pressuring Sacred Heart Hospital, which is run by PeaceHealth, to
modify its informed consent process for shock. While PeaceHealth has made three or
four minor changes, MindFreedom is asking for more. For example, a MindFreedom
member discovered a fraudulent videotape by Max Fink, a psychiatrist with financial
links to the ECT-device manufacturing industry, is still being used by Sacred Heart,
despite assurances to the contrary. MindFreedom has filed complaints with the
appropriate Eugene and Oregon government agencies.
.. Internet: MindFreedom continues to sponsor the ZapBack e-mail list. This is one of
the main, long-standing, moderated places on the Internet to network those who are
concerned about electroshock as a human rights violation. News of campaigns, articles,
information, questions and answers are posted on this list for MindFreedom members
and others to support their activism on this issue. Those interested are encouraged to
join this list, and help support MindFreedom’s Campaign to End Electroshock.
DAVID OAKS (U.S. psychiatric survivor and director of MindFreedom International
which he founded in 1986), personal communication, 2 January 2006. Accredited by the
United Nations as a nongovernmental organization (NGO), MindFreedom
International, unites 100 grassroots groups (in 14 nations) and thousands of members
to win, by nonviolent means, campaigns for human rights of people diagnosed with
psychiatric disabilities. MindFreedom International is where mutual support meets
human rights activism. MindFreedom International is ready to work with individuals
and groups striving for justice everywhere. For more information, see:, e-mail, or phone toll free 1-877MAD-
PRIDE. Oaks has championed the cause for human rights in psychiatry for more
than 25 years.
David Oaks


2006 — The amount of life lost to [ECT-induced] amnesia cannot be predicted; patients
should be warned that it has been known to extend to 10–20 years. It should be made
clear that amnesia is not limited to information about discrete events or to facts that are
easily regained, such as dates and telephone numbers, but that it encompasses all
thoughts, feelings, personal interactions and relationships, learning and skills associated
with the erased time period, and thus there is no simple or easy way to recapture what is
HAROLD ROBERTSON (U.S. charitable foundation director) and ROBIN PRYOR,
“Memory and Cognitive Effects of ECT: Informing and Assessing Patients,” Advances in
Psychiatric Treatment, vol. 12, 2006. The authors gave 2 references regarding the risk
of amnesia covering 10-20 years: M. Pedlar, Shock Treatment: A Survey of People’s
Experience of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)., London: MIND, 2001, and Service
User Research Enterprise, Review of Consumers’ Perspectives on Electroconvulsive
Therapy, London: Institute of Psychiatry, 2002.

2006 — Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has been evaluated in randomized,
prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. These studies [under review] vary
in methodology but all involve the administration of real ECT versus sham ECT under
double-blind conditions. In the sham ECT condition, the patients receive a general
anesthetic, are hooked up to the ECT machine, and the button is pushed, but no current
is delivered. The patients have no way of knowing whether real or sham ECT was
delivered. The evaluations of the patients’ responses using standardized measures of
depression are done by psychiatrists who do not know whether a given individual
received real or sham ECT.

The sham ECT studies provide definitive evidence that real ECT is no more effective
than sham ECT. The cost-benefit of ECT is therefore negative. The negative side of the
cost-benefit analysis is due to deaths, cardiovascular complications, and memory and
cognitive impairment caused by ECT.
COLIN A. ROSS (U.S. psychiatrist), abstract, “The Sham ECT Literature: Implications
for Consent to ECT,” Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, Spring 2006.



Leonard Roy Frank was born in 1932 in Brooklyn. A graduate of the University of
Pennsylvania’s Wharton School (1954), he was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years
and afterwards worked for several years as a real estate salesman in New York City,
Florida, and San Francisco. In 1962, he was diagnosed as a “paranoid schizophrenic”
and involuntarily institutionalized in California for more than seven months during
which time he was forced to undergo combined insulincoma-electroshock treatment (50
insulin comas and 35 electroshocks). From 1970 through 1974 he managed his own art
gallery in San Francisco. From 1972 to 1984 (with a 3-year break) he was a staff member
of Madness Network News. In 1974 he co-founded the Network Against Psychiatric
Assault (NAPA). In 1978 he edited and published The History of Shock Treatment. In
1996, Feral House published Influencing Minds: A Reader in Quotations which he
edited. In 1998, he edited The Random House Webster’s Quotationary (20,000 quotes
in 1,000 categories). During the following five years, Random House published seven
smaller quote collections he edited. Since 1998, his column of quotes, “Poor Leonard’s
Almanack,” has appeared in the Oakland-based monthly Street Spirit. Since 2004, his
“Frankly Quoted” column has been distributed on the first day of the month free of
charge to anyone asking to be placed on its Listerv ( Frank has lived in
San Francisco since 1959.


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