An Electrifying Tale

In journalism “burying the lede” means hiding the main or most important point among distracting details.

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After the book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey was made into a popular movie that revealed the vicious brutality of mental hospitals and especially electroconvulsive therapy and horrific brain operations like lobotomies, there was a decided downturn in both forms of so-called treatments for the vulnerable mentally ill population. Thank God for that. In fact, lobotomies and their many related brain butchering surgeries virtually disappeared from the medical landscape.

However, after hitting all time lows in the 1990’s ECT got a cosmetic makeover and quietly began to come back into use. Today, for example, in Florida and many other states, ECT is currently authorized for use on patients of all ages. That includes babies, children and pregnant women.

Let’s be clear. There is NO valid scientific research to back up using such an invasive act to treat anything. No psychiatrist can explain scientifically what causes most mental illness, and they certainly can’t explain how sending electricity through a brain will fix something they don’t even understand. Oh, they can show some interesting diagrams of brains and such and speculate about how it all works, but the fact is they don’t know. It is a lot like the recent revelations about the brain chemistry imbalance theory that Big Psych and Big Pharma have pushed for decades. New studies now show the whole thing to be a house of cards that is completely unsupported by actual science.

What adults do to themselves is their business. If they really want brain damage I suppose I can’t stop them. But minors and especially babies are another story altogether. Most parents rightfully want to protect their children from harm. That’s why the whole transgender hormones and surgery fiasco has sparked such a backlash.

No one wants a child butchered because of a supposed gender confusion that most likely will work itself out over time. After all, children are vulnerable. They are still growing and developing. Things that seem all consuming today will be trivial in a few years. As adults, we already know that children don’t have the advantage of life experience and hindsight.

Likewise, why would you want potentially harmful electric voltage shot through a child’s brain? A brain that is still growing and developing. A child has a whole life ahead of him to figure things out. How could anyone justify such barbarism?

Having become aware that ECT is still practiced, and even recommended in some instances for children, I must speak. And we must stop this practice once and for all.

So, how did ECT ever get started as treatment? That’s an interesting if not gruesome story. It all started many centuries ago when inducing convulsions was thought to be potentially helpful to distraught people. Sounds strange, but this was back in the late Medieval period when bloodletting was also a standard medical “treatment.” Originally the convulsions were caused using dangerous drugs. Eventually both practices were dropped as bad ideas that didn’t work and that often killed the patient.

But when it comes to psychiatry, no idea is a bad idea. In the 1930’s an Italian psychiatrist spent his day off watching pigs at a slaughterhouse being shocked just before they were butchered. He noticed how docile if not completely unconscious they became. He began shocking dogs on their heads and saw that sent them into violent seizures. But, and this was important, it mostly did not kill them. You know being a doctor and all, with that pesky Hippocratic oath to do no harm? That gave him an idea. And thus, ECT was born.

How violent is ECT?

Psychiatry claims modern ECT is safe and effective. Where have you heard that one before? ECT sends 100+ volts of electricity straight through the brain, causing a grand mal seizure. They aim for 2 to 12 times the person’s seizure threshold to make sure they get what they want. The grand mal (it literally means big bad) seizure is most commonly associated with epilepsy. Be thankful if you haven’t seen someone have a full blown epileptic seizure. I have. It is frightening. Caregivers are told to shove something in the person’s mouth to prevent them from breaking too many teeth. In the good old days of ECT patients would shake so violently that their bones would break. Nowadays the patient is knocked out with anesthetics, and given heavy muscle relaxers so nothing breaks and a drug to prevent too much salivation. Despite all that, ECT can still sometimes cause fractures or dental injury. They also may use a urinary catheter because patients will wet themselves. And that’s what the psychiatrist calls safe and effective.

What exactly does ECT do?

The brain contains a complex network of nerve cells called neurons. These neurons are sending and receiving tiny electrical signals to and from the body while the body is alive. ECT disrupts the neural pathways in the brain. That is all the experts can really say. It disrupts the brain and its activity. The hope is that something gets shaken loose or destroyed, and somehow regrows or becomes realigned better. That’s it. Really. Shake the cup and roll the dice and hope you don’t get snake eyes. That is the science of ECT.

What are the results of ECT?

People are observably quieter after receiving electroconvulsive therapy, but that is not necessarily a good thing at all. A two by four to the head will also make someone quiet but hopefully no one will decide that’s “treatment.” A few patients will claim they are all better now. Really I am, they will say, but if you listen carefully you’ll hear either the desperation or a vacuous nothing at all. I suspect those are the bright ones or the frightened ones who are desperate to avoid more torture, much like prisoners in a gulag. Nausea, headaches and drowsiness are routine side effects. Confusion and memory loss are known standard results with ECT. Psychiatry claims most of that will go away with enough time.

What about permanent memory loss from ECT?

Psychiatry skirts the issue, claiming there is no reliable way to measure that. However, questionnaires of patients about subjective memory loss found that between 29% and 55% of respondents believed they experienced long-lasting or permanent memory changes.

Are there health risks with ECT?

The rate of major adverse cardiac events with ECT was 1 in 39 patients or about 1 in 200 to 500 procedures. That’s MAJOR events, like permanent heart damage, or flat-lining. They don’t even track minor adverse events because there are just too many.

The risk of immediate death with ECT however is low. Only 1 in 100,000 treatments cause immediate death. Psychiatry is proud of the fact that most people can survive the “treatment.” And if death does occur, cardiovascular complications are often to blame say the doctors, not the voltage shot through the patient’s head.

It’s easy for children to become victims of outside forces that do not have their best interests in mind. That’s why minors cannot buy alcohol or tobacco, why there are laws to protect them from work abuse and from sexual abuse. It is why they can’t legally sign contracts, or drive cars. Any of those things could end badly. We as parents never want that to happen to our children.

Like the horrific tragedy of irreversible transgender surgery done on otherwise healthy minors, Electroconvulsive Therapy done to minors deserves the same outrage, the same voices raised in defense of the most vulnerable among us. Our children are our future. They are in our care because we are the most vested in protecting and nurturing them so they can live full, productive and happy lives.

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