Electro Shock Treatment

snfu73

disturber of the peace
Electro shock treatment is still a commonly used, and often highly effective way of treating some severe cases of depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. It has come under fire for being a cruel and inhumane form of treatment. However, it has been highly effective in many cases...including people I have met. I can see the difference in them. However, there has been a very strong effort launched against the practice, that often extends to attempting to discredit the psychiatry as a whole. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on this?
 

Niflmir

A modern nomad
Dec 18, 2006
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Leiden, the Netherlands
Electro shock treatment is still a commonly used, and often highly effective way of treating some severe cases of depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. It has come under fire for being a cruel and inhumane form of treatment. However, it has been highly effective in many cases...including people I have met. I can see the difference in them. However, there has been a very strong effort launched against the practice, that often extends to attempting to discredit the psychiatry as a whole. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on this?

What do you mean by effective? If you mean: decreases the frequency of symptoms, then I would agree with you. If you mean, causes the person to behave normally, then you have the problem of what normal means and I would have to disagree.

I don't think the science behind it is very good. The mechanism can only be a form of moderate brain damage, which arguably is a bad way to heal someone. It comes under fire as cruel and unusual because it is allegedly carried out against the will of the individual or by tricking the individual into consenting to it. It is seen in this light as a form of torture for bad behaviour which reduces recidivism by causing brain damage. The bad behaviour being the symptoms, and the torture because it is physical pain inflicted so long as the symptoms persist.
 

snfu73

disturber of the peace
What do you mean by effective? If you mean: decreases the frequency of symptoms, then I would agree with you. If you mean, causes the person to behave normally, then you have the problem of what normal means and I would have to disagree.

I don't think the science behind it is very good. The mechanism can only be a form of moderate brain damage, which arguably is a bad way to heal someone. It comes under fire as cruel and unusual because it is allegedly carried out against the will of the individual or by tricking the individual into consenting to it. It is seen in this light as a form of torture for bad behaviour which reduces recidivism by causing brain damage. The bad behaviour being the symptoms, and the torture because it is physical pain inflicted so long as the symptoms persist.
Well....I don't think there is NORMAL...but if it prevents someone from feeling suicidal 24 hours a day, I would say that is a success...and several people I know were in that position until they had the therapy.

But, you raise an interesting point...about consent and such...and the debate over forced treatment. It is a difficult subject. If someone is dangerous without treatment, and treatment would prevent others from being harmed or the person themselves, or prevent them from ending up in jail at one point or another...then is it worth it? Often one of the problems with severe mental disorder is denial....or lack of ability to understand the grave situation the person may be in. Therefore, could it not be argued that it is cruel and inhumane not to get that person the therapy or help that they desperatly need, whether they know it or not?
 

Zan

Senate Member
Jul 8, 2005
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Edmonton AB
snfu,

I'd like to see some info on how the practice has evolved. The only case I've ever known of this being used, the patient (victim, imo) was never quite right again. Well, she wasn't to begin with or they wouldn't have been firing currents through her brain, would they? Mind you, her treatments occurred back in the stone ages - probably at least 30 years ago. To this day, her memory is hooped, her ability to speak coherently is severely impaired, and her general cognitive processes are sporadic... sometimes appearing functional, other times... not so much. I believe heavy meds played a role in that outcome as well, but I'm not sure the medical profession knew what the heck they were doing with eclectic shock therapy that many years ago. My hunch is there was an awful lot of guesswork involved, but it's only a hunch. Seems to me the cure was worse than the illness. I'd hope they have a better idea of what they're doing nowadays.
 

Niflmir

A modern nomad
Dec 18, 2006
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Well....I don't think there is NORMAL...but if it prevents someone from feeling suicidal 24 hours a day, I would say that is a success...and several people I know were in that position until they had the therapy.

But, you raise an interesting point...about consent and such...and the debate over forced treatment. It is a difficult subject. If someone is dangerous without treatment, and treatment would prevent others from being harmed or the person themselves, or prevent them from ending up in jail at one point or another...then is it worth it? Often one of the problems with severe mental disorder is denial....or lack of ability to understand the grave situation the person may be in. Therefore, could it not be argued that it is cruel and inhumane not to get that person the therapy or help that they desperatly need, whether they know it or not?

Last post for the day. If they are supposedly so dangerous, than they should have to face a tribunal of law before their right to liberty is so drastically taken away from them. There are other ways of dealing with the symptoms which are not so extreme, thus ECT should never be used. Suicide arguments will never sway me, I have every right to take my own life if I so choose.

For your last comment, cruel and unusual not to help, I will agree with in a way. You cannot conflate negligence of responsibility (to help a person) with cruelty. Now, I agree that it is negligent not to help them, but it is never reasonable to offer ECT, there are far more effective and less destructive techniques available.

To force someone to undergo any given treatment, a person has a right to a hearing. This is enshrined in such things as the habeas corpus. It would have to be proved that they are a danger to other, not themself. The fact that a psychiatrist can act as judge, jury and executioner is absurd for any treatment, and especially true in the case of inflicting brain damage upon someone in order to decrease the frequency of so called "abnormal symptoms".
 
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snfu73

disturber of the peace
Last post for the day. If they are supposedly so dangerous, than they should have to face a tribunal of law before their right to liberty is so drastically taken away from them. There are other ways of dealing with the symptoms which are not so extreme, thus ECT should never be used. Suicide arguments will never sway me, I have every right to take my own life if I so choose.

For your last comment, cruel and unusual not to help, I will agree with in a way. You cannot conflate negligence of responsibility (to help a person) with cruelty. Now, I agree that it is negligent not to help them, but it is never reasonable to offer ECT, there are far more effective and less destructive techniques available.

To force someone to undergo any given treatment, a person has a right to a hearing. This is enshrined in such things as the habeas corpus. It would have to be proved that they are a danger to other, not themself. The fact that a psychiatrist can act as judge, jury and executioner is absurd for any treatment, and especially true in the case of inflicting brain damage upon someone in order to decrease the frequency of so called "abnormal symptoms".
As someone who has suffered from mental illness myself, I don't know if I agree. I don't see ECT therapy as being overly cruel. I think it has proved to be effective in a good number of people. Like I have said, there are people that I know who have gone through it, and the difference is...amazing. It's like night and day. They went through it consentually, knowing all the risks and options, and decided that it was the right thing to do for them...and did it. I know one girl who went through it and it made no difference. I asked what the procedure was like, and the answer was always that it wasn't fun, but it wasn't as bad as people would think. I think some of these treatments look far worse from the outside then they do on the inside.

Now, as far as forced treatment...if a person is not in their right frame of mind...and needs help...what can be done? Maybe ECT isn't for them...maybe some other form of therapy is. ECT is often used as a last resort...not a first line of treatment. So, if in the case of, say, medication, if a person who is off medication (like myself) is volitile, destructive, unpredictable, non coherent, whatever...is a court order for a person to take the meds they need or go to jail acceptable? I think it is. I think that sometimes, the only way to get people the help they need is to surpass the individuals rights...mind if you, if the individual isn't even that individual anymore...I dunno. Anyway....I will leave this post for here now.
 

able

Electoral Member
Apr 26, 2007
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I have seen people who had undergone shock therapy, and it shocked me. The zombies were lead into the cafeteria, sat down, chin placed in their hands, and there they stayed. Drool poured out of their mouths, eyes saw nothing, and they never moved. One fellow I knew got shock therapy, but what he really needed was a divorce. I happened to see his wife leaving during visiting hours, and I said "well, there goes so and so", knowing that he was about to have his usual freakout. Less than two minutes later he was lying on the floor, trying to smash the leg of his bed through his chest, then he tried to break a window with a chair so he could jump. Every time I was there after she visited, this same kind of scenario was enacted, and I always wanted to beat the crap out of her. If she wanted a divorce, why not just get one, why do her best to make him commit suicide? In this case, I thought the wrong person was in hospital. I would like to believe that shock therapy did some good, but unfortunately, in most cases that I knew of, the so called support network appeared to be the causative factor. There is still a lot more to learn about mental health, everyone wishes there was a magic cure, almost no one has the slightest understanding about it, and so, we muddle on. Hopefully, we will get better at it over time, in the meantime, it is trial and error. Not nice, but its the best we have at present.
 

#juan

Hall of Fame Member
Aug 30, 2005
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In my first year at UBC I took a couple courses in behavioral psychology because the courses I wanted were full. One of the things we did, was to watch an electroshock treatment. I don't know enough about it to have an opinion one way or another but watching it was bloody awful.
 

Curiosity

Senate Member
Jul 30, 2005
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California
It seems a barbaric method of treatment for any disorder these days when chemicals can achieve a more moderate but satisfactory relief of symptomology.... with certainly less damage to the brain.

There are other methods such as deep brain stimulation via electrode and vagal nerve stimulation which have success in some types of depression.

Why a practitioner would choose ECT indicates he/she needs to catch up on advances in pharmacology and advances in the treatment of MDD.
 
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Niflmir

A modern nomad
Dec 18, 2006
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Leiden, the Netherlands
As someone who has suffered from mental illness myself, I don't know if I agree. I don't see ECT therapy as being overly cruel. I think it has proved to be effective in a good number of people. Like I have said, there are people that I know who have gone through it, and the difference is...amazing. It's like night and day. They went through it consentually, knowing all the risks and options, and decided that it was the right thing to do for them...and did it. I know one girl who went through it and it made no difference. I asked what the procedure was like, and the answer was always that it wasn't fun, but it wasn't as bad as people would think. I think some of these treatments look far worse from the outside then they do on the inside.

Now, as far as forced treatment...if a person is not in their right frame of mind...and needs help...what can be done? Maybe ECT isn't for them...maybe some other form of therapy is. ECT is often used as a last resort...not a first line of treatment. So, if in the case of, say, medication, if a person who is off medication (like myself) is volitile, destructive, unpredictable, non coherent, whatever...is a court order for a person to take the meds they need or go to jail acceptable? I think it is. I think that sometimes, the only way to get people the help they need is to surpass the individuals rights...mind if you, if the individual isn't even that individual anymore...I dunno. Anyway....I will leave this post for here now.

It is irrelevent how effective it is. Give me permission to attach electrodes to a person's genitalia, whip them whenever they do something wrong, attach thumb screws or any other form of torture and I can show you an even more effective reprogramming regime.

The test of reasonableness is and always will be: Before taking drastic measures, have all less invasive techniques been tried. The answer will always be no for ECT. There are more treatments available than one person can ever go through, each one shown to be quite effective. To steal Isaac Asimov's words: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."

I read a lot of court cases, and I can see how this would play out in court. The counsel for the recipient would be able to inquire about dozens of alternative techniques which have shown to be just as effective or more without the damage and pain. Given two therapies which are equally effective, a reasonable person will always take the one that causes the least damage and the least pain. It would be ruled that the doctor was incompetent or criminally negligent in not knowing about alternatives, or at worst completely sadistic. Perhaps the de minimis defense and the fact that all recipients are either fine now or still mentally ill are the only things keeping this out of court.

Again, in the face of alternatives which are just as effective, the effectiveness is irrelevent to the discussion of whether it is cruel.
 

Curiosity

Senate Member
Jul 30, 2005
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California
Another deterrent for ECT

Many people with mental illness are extremely intelligent and score high on IQ testing - that they are mentally ill has nothing to do with their capabilities if they are adequately regulated with good treatment to navigate through our world with as little complication as possible.

It has been shown that ECT will act negatively on the IQ of the person receiving this barbaric "therapy"
and while giving some arguable and temporary relief, the long term resulting factors of losing IQ is
less commendable. LIke stealing a person's mind.
 

Josephine

Electoral Member
Mar 13, 2007
213
7
18
Personally, I don't think shock treatment should be an option. I think there are usually alternatives. My Nana and my mother both went through shock treatment. For my Nana it was forced...she didn't have any say. My mother didn't choose it either, my father chose it for her. It didn't help and she had to be hospitilized.

I went through a period of depression so bad I was basically catatonic for about a year. At that time I couldn't have made any decisions about my health or treatment, but I sure am glad no one suggested shock treatment!!! Eventually medication worked.

There's actually a seminar/demonstration this Sunday here in Toronto about ending shock treatment.
http://www.mindfreedom.org/kb/mental-health-abuse/electroshock/mothers-day-07-protest