ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy) was recently promoted as a benign psychiatric treatment making a great comeback according to an article in USA Today that was repeated in many newspapers throughout Florida.
Today electroconvulsive therapy is done with patients hooked up to IVs and heart and brain monitors. They are given medication to paralyze their muscles during the treatment (this prevents the violent convulsions that sometimes would break the spines of patients receiving earlier forms of electric shock treatment). Patients bite down on foam “bite blocks” and are put fully under using anesthetics, so that they are unconscious during the shocks.
“Following a quick buzzing sound, patients’ bodies tense for about five seconds.”
When they awake they go to recovery until the anesthesia fully wears off.
“They remember nothing of the treatment itself.”
.Dr. Ivan Mazzorana, a Board Certified Psychiatrist, who runs the ECT section at a private for profit hospital called Park Royal Hospital in Ft. Meyers, Fl., was featured in a video accompanying the article. The video is a professional infomercial for the clinic and ECT complete with a lovely acoustic guitar soundtrack and patient testimonials.
The following comments made by Dr. Mazzorana on the video did not appear in the article text.
“How does ECT work? Well, although there’s no specific answer to that question, we know there are several theories. One, what is happening to the brain is we’re stimulating the release of brain chemicals which we refer to as neuro-transmitters but what we’re also doing is jump starting the brain. So, if you look at your brain as being powered by circuits, what he’s going to do is jump start your brain, so to speak. It reaches areas of your brain where medications do not reach, to simplify matters.”
In fields other than psychiatry, putting electric current through the brain is not called jump starting; it is called electrocution or torture depending on the circumstances creating the shocks.
Anyone experiencing 110 volts from a wall socket or even 12 volts from a car battery knows this is not a pleasant experience.
The “five second buzzing” is typically between 70 – 170 volts going through the brain creating a brief Grand Mal seizure – a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions – which is masked under the anesthesia and muscle medication.
ECT machines such as the Thymatron DGx can reach 450 volts. At .9 amps, this amount of electricity would keep a large light bulb burning brightly for 5 seconds.
Patients labeled bipolar are prime candidates for ECT treatment especially when their psychiatric drugs fail to keep them quite enough. The Mayo Clinic defines bipolar disorder this way:
“Bipolar disorder — sometimes called manic-depressive disorder — is associated with mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day.”
Normal life behavior and emotion is hereby labeled a “disorder” by psychiatry.
What do patients at Park Royal Hospital pay for the privilege of receiving a full general anesthetic and a wall socket jolt of electricity repeated 12 or more times?
“Edson, the Park Royal Hospital business development director, said the health center generally charge insurers $500 a treatment, though that does not include the costs of the anesthesiologist and hospital stay. Mazzorana said the total cost is about $1,000.”
That’s $12,000 for each patient who gets his standard 12 zaps. The facility does about 30 “treatments” a week.
Dr. Arias, offers ECT at Riverside Behavioral Center through his “Seabreeze Behavioral Medicine” group. He is not connected to Park Royal but estimates “that a physician generally earns $100 per treatment; the anesthesiologists earn about $300; and hospitals earn about $700.” New patients must typically stay in the hospital for the first half of the standard dozen ECT treatments; snowbirds can stop by when they are in Florida to get “maintenance” treatments.
The resurgence in ECT is occurring because it’s now mandated to be covered by most insurance, including Medicare. “Most physicians didn’t want to offer it in years past because of the low payments for it and the cost of malpractice coverage,” Dr. Arias said. “But those rates have improved in recent years.”
A Fort Myers News-Press reporter was recently allowed to witness about a half dozen such procedures at Park Royal but not one word of what he saw appeared in the USA Today article. And even though a patient agreed to be photographed during one such procedure, and to have it recorded on video, the hospital overruled that consent. Talking with willing ECT patients at the hospital is also forbidden, the hospital citing “patient privacy” and “the very delicate nature of the ECT treatment.”
They may not want reporters experiencing first hand the effects of ECT.
“After a few sessions of ECT, the symptoms are those of moderate cerebral contusions,” said neurologist Sidney Sament. “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.”
A study published in early 2007 concluded that persistent cognitive symptoms such as amnesia and slowed mental processing regularly persist in ECT patients six months after the procedure. For many these effects are permanent. Instead of getting rid of depression, ECT has created such losses in memory and mental ability that in deep anguish some have committed suicide. Ernest Hemingway was a famous example taking his life in 1961 as following shock treatments he discovered his memory loss was so great he had lost his ability to write.
One study found a suicide rate almost double for people undergoing ECT–a 14% death rate compared to about 7.5 % for non-ECT.
1993 study reported a death rate of over 25% among elderly patients within one year of the ECT treatments, compared to less than 4% with non-ECT treatments.
Here are some statements taken from ECT victims:
- “I don’t remember things I never wanted to forget – important things – like my wedding day and who was there. A friend took me back to the church where I had my wedding, and it had no meaning to me”
- “I shut my eyes. There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath. Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world. Whee-ee-ee-ee-ee, it shrilled, through an air crackling with blue light, and with each flash a great jolt drubbed me till I thought my bones would break and the sap fly out of me like a split plant. ‘I wondered what terrible thing it was that I had done.”
- “One person close to me when I was a child endured ECT and her fear of having it repeated caused her to tremble at the mention of a hospital. She would break down in sobs and run from the house to hide in the woods. Her depression never improved but grew worse as the years passed and she suffered from memory loss the rest of her life.”
- “This question was asked of the patient thirty minutes after ECT…while limping with a gait almost as if every bone in his body had been shattered, while walking down the corridor of the psychiatric ward towards his room. “Can you describe how you feel right now?” Reply. ” Dad…its like you don’t know where you’ve been ..and…and…you don’t know where you’ve come from…” Today, he still has nightmares and sees blue flashes in his eyes.”
- “My mother had ECT treatment in Stanleyroyd Hospital, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England in the 1960’s. I think there is a strong possibility that her brain was damaged in these early years by the ECT treatments but nobody seemed to listen. My mother was a very intelligent woman in many ways. I believe ECT treatments should be stopped. I will always remember what she had to say about ECT. “It is an ungodly treatment on any human being. Forgive them Lord for they know not what they do.”
There is no question that ECT should be abolished worldwide, but the psychiatrists administering Electroconvulsive therapy do know what they do.
Not a single psychiatrist has ever stepped forward to receive a series of ECT treatments himself to see what this “beneficial” experience is all about. They know what it is about – extreme pain that turns a normal human being into a quiet, apathetic motionless customer for life.