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It is a medical procedure where a
psychiatrist administers an electric shock with the
intention to trigger a convulsion in the patient.
WHAT IS ECT? It is a medical procedure where a
psychiatrist administers an electric shock with the
intention to trigger a convulsion in the patient.
convulsion is similar to a grand mal epileptic
seizure. It must last for at least 15 seconds to be
CURRENT? The current is usually 200 or so volts
that shoots through the brain for two seconds or
more. This is a powerful electrical force, as great as
that found in a wall socket. It could kill the patient by heart failure if one of the electrodes were connected
to an extremity. The electrical current can burn the skin, which is why conducting gel is used.
It overrides the brain's natural defenses and triggers a convulsion.
IS A PATIENT CONSCIOUS DURING ECT? Modern ECT is performed with a patient that is under
general anesthesia. But anesthesia raises the brains seizure threshold, so more electrical force is needed
today to trigger a convulsion.
1. ECT treatment is generally administered in the morning, before breakfast. The patient is wheeled or led
into the operating room and placed on the operating table.
2. The patient receives an anesthetic via an IV in the arm and usually is asked to count until he or she
becomes unconscious.
3. The patient gets an intravenous muscle paralyzer (such as succinylcholine) to prevent a breakage of
bones or a fracture of the spine during the seizure.
4. A nurse places a rubber bit between the teeth to prevent that the patient bites off the tongue.
Occasionally a patient gets a drug to inhibit salivation.
5. Usually a breathing mask is placed over the mouth to ensure oxygen flows to the brain.
6. A nurse rubs conducting jelly onto the temples.
7. Two electrodes from the ECT device are connected to the patients head, usually on each side.
8. The psychiatrist sets the duration of the shock and pushes the button. The current shoots through the
patients brain.
9. The psychiatrist measures the duration of the convulsion to make sure that it lasts for at least
fifteen seconds. It is not uncommon for a convulsion to last 45 seconds.
10. The patient is wheeled out of the operating theatre and into the recovery room.
PSYCHIATRY'S THEORY ABOUT ECT Psychiatry tries to reduce all human problems to chemistry;
that our fears and worries are biological. The underlying reason for triggering a convulsion is to bring
about "organic changes". This derives from psychiatry's theory of "chemical imbalance", a theory that
also drives the psychiatric drug industry. It began when psychiatrists discovered that the drug Thorazine
influenced neurotransmitters, brain chemicals that carry electrical signals between nerve cells.
Psychiatrists then "reasoned" backwards that mentally ill patients were "deficient" or had an "imbalance" in these neurotransmitters. But medicine has to this date not been able to devise a test that measures the
correct "balance" or the "normal" levels of our neurotransmitters. Without such a test, it is impossible to
make an accurate diagnosis of neurotransmitter "deficiency" or "imbalance".
(These quotations have been taken from published research papers by psychiatrists—see References).
• ECT works to "knock out the brain and reduce the higher activities, to impair memory [so that] the
pathological state is forgotten".
• The "disturbance of memory is... an integral part of the recovery process... people have... more
intelligence than they can handle and a reduction in intelligence is an important factor in the curative process."
• "There must be... organic changes in the brain, and the cure is related to these organic changes."
(This is a summary of findings from published medical research papers—see References).
• ECT can form scar tissue (gliosis) around nerve cells damaged by the electricity. This is otherwise seen
in Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis;
• ECT can cause brain hemorrhages, large and small;
• ECT can kill nerve cells;
• ECT can cause nerve cells to disappear;
• ECT can cause what psychiatry calls "Large Areas of Devastation" in the brain;
• ECT can cause brain tissue to shrink (atrophy);
• ECT can cause brain swelling (edema);
•ECT can cause the formation of "shadow" brain cells—where genetic material and other cellular
components have disappeared, leaving only the shell of the cell.
Cognitive refers to mental processes, rather than brain structure. There are numerous such side effects that
have been documented by medical studies (see References).
According to ECT patients, the one cognitive side effect that stands out above all others is long-term or
permanent memory loss. This is not like normal forgetfulness or a gradual loss of memory as in
Alzheimer's. The amnesia is sudden and absolutely unexpected. A period of time is wiped out from the
patient's memory as if it never happened. It is as if part of a life was "unlived". Decades of a life can be
erased. A whole life can be erased if the psychiatrist continues ECT.
Another commonly-reported side effect from ECT patients is that life just "isn't the same again". Its as if
some part of the patient's personality has been destroyed. It is a loss of core identity, the sense of who you
really are. It even has a name in psychiatric literature: the taming effect. The person is less able to perform
intellectual or creative tasks. A musician is not able to play, a scientist can no longer conceptualize a
problem. There is a famous but sad example of this: Before he killed himself with a shotgun after a
second series of ECT, Ernest Hemingway, one of America's greatest writers, said: "What is the sense of
ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a
brilliant cure but we lost the patient." This ECT side effect has been described as the "agonizing
experience of the shattered self".
• ECT can cause inattention and an inability to concentrate;
• ECT can cause a difficulty carrying out manual tasks for which a person has been trained;
• ECT can cause a patient to be dazed and stupefied;
•ECT can cause a drop in IQ, as measured by tests.
The fatality rate of modern modified ECT is as high as 1 in 200 for people over sixty years of age. This
rate is higher than the rate for the unmodified ECT administered in the 1940s and early 1950s in the USA,
when the electrical current required to trigger a convulsion was lower.
American Psychiatric Association guidelines say that ECT is indicated when a person is "treatment
resistant". This means a "lack of therapeutic response to two antidepressants". According to psychiatry,
"loss of appetite and interest in food, or overeating" and a "loss of interest and pleasure in your usual
activities" qualify as symptoms of major depression. The 2001 APA ECT guidelines also say that ECT
may be safer than alternative treatments of the "infirm elderly and during pregnancy".
Psychiatrists know that ECT causes memory loss and a "taming effect". They know it causes permanent
brain damage. But they are not telling their patients, as they are required to do under "Informed Consent"
regulations. How else can a psychiatrist expect for someone to agree to a treatment that reduces the IQ
from 156 to 118 (an actual example)? Or makes a patient lose part of his personality and memory of his
life? Either the electroshocking psychiatrist glosses over these effects as "minor" or "temporary". Or an
institutionalized patient is coerced to sign after being threatened with further confinement. A trick that has
been reported by ECT patients is for a psychiatrist to assure that memory loss cannot happen. Then when
a patient complains of it after ECT, the psychiatrist insists that it didn't happen, "proving" how crazy a
patient really is.
Neurologist Robert Grimm has pointed out in a statement to the American Psychiatric Association that
"the use of convulsions by one branch of medicine (psychiatry) to effect therapeutic response while
another branch (neurology) labors to prevent convulsions reveals a serious ethical problem ..."
In the year 2000, the National Council on Disability, the federal agency that is responsible for making
disability policy recommendations to the President and Congress, after reviewing scientific evidence,
made a policy recommendation that ECT should be eliminated as an "unproven and inherently inhumane
ECT is a serious human rights violation. It is directly contradictory to the UN Declaration of Human
Rights (Section 5), which opposes "cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment and punishment". The
majority of ECT is given without a fully informed consent and is therefore administered either forcibly or
by deceit.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 patients receive ECT annually in the USA, by consent or forcibly.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida (CCHR FLORIDA) is a non profit organization that investigates and exposes psychiatric violations of human rights.

CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by professor Thomas Szasz, Professor of PSychiatry Emeritus, and the Church of Scientology, dedicated soley to eradicate mental health abuse. It works side-by-side with like-minded groups and individuals who share a common purpose to clean up the field of mental health. There are many non-profit organizations and individuals who are concerned about the harmful practices of psychiatry. These groups and individuals include, Doctors, Ministers, Parents, Family advocacy groups and more. CCHR Florida has over 80 allies from all over the state of Florida and the United States.

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For further information, contact:
Citizens Commission on Human Rights of Florida, Inc.
1217 North Fort Harrison Avenue • Clearwater • FL 33765
(727) 442-8820 • (800) 782-2878 • FAX (727) 446-9697
www.cchrfloida.org • email: info@cchrflorida.org