Electroshock Must Be Banned as Crime Against Humanity
by Don Weitz
is a barbaric, brain-disabling psychiatric procedure that should have
been abolished many years ago. Yet its use is on the rise.
have struggled against psychiatric oppression and for human rights for
psychiatric survivors during the last 30 years. I'm a very proud
psychiatric survivor, antipsychiatry and social justice activist; shit
disturber or troublemaker are other labels given me when I once worked
as a community psychologist at the notorious Queen Street Mental Health
Centre in Toronto in the early 1970s.
earlier in the United States, I was locked up for 15 months and
forcibly subjected to 110 insulin shock treatments in Mclean Hospital,
Harvard University's major teaching-research psychiatric institution. I
experienced insulin shock as serious trauma and psychiatric torture. I
wrote an article about this horrific experience, published last year in
the Journal of Critical Psychology, Psychotherapy and Counseling.
present, electroshock, officially labeled electroconvulsive therapy or
ECT, has replaced insulin shock in the psychiatric arsenal. Insulin
shock, particularly insulin coma shock, caused numerous medical
complications including deaths, yet it was never banned or declared
illegal in North America. Electroshock is a barbaric, brain-disabling
psychiatric procedure that should have been banned or abolished many
years ago, soon after it was introduced as a so-called treatment for
depression in the early 1940s in Canada and the United States.
refuse to call electroshock a treatment. Why? Because this allegedly
"safe, effective and lifesaving treatment" for depression and other
so-called "mental disorders" always causes brain damage, permanent
memory loss, terror, trauma, and sometimes death. During each shock
procedure, an average of 150-200 volts of electricity are delivered to
the brain though electrodes placed on one side or both sides of the
brain. The current lasts for a half-second to two seconds.
are several immediate, alarming, and health-threatening effects of each
electroshock. One is convulsion, the uncontrollable shaking and
thrashing around you've probably seen in the film, "One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest." That effect is muted since a muscle-paralyzer is
administered shortly before the procedure. Another serious effect is
the grand mal epileptic seizure; this lasts about one minute or longer,
followed by a coma, which lasts 5-10 minutes.
You wake up in a
hospital "recovery room" but you rarely fully recover. On awakening
from the electrically induced coma, you also experience a splitting,
migraine-type headache, disorientation (frequently not knowing your
name or where you are), muscle weakness, confusion, nausea, and memory
long-term effects are permanent memory loss for past events in your
life (retrograde amnesia), forgetting recently learned or new material
or experiences (anterograde amnesia), and/or problems concentrating,
studying or reading.
Wendy Funk and Wayne Lax are two
of many courageous shock survivors in Canada who have publicly
testified and spoken out against electroshock and want it banned; so do
thousands of other shock survivors and critics, including myself.
Wendy is a good friend and author of the acclaimed autobiography, What Difference Does it Make? (The Journey of a Soul Survivor).
She still cannot recall approximately 30 years of her life. More than
40 shock treatments were delivered against Wendy's will, without her
consent, and they erased many memories and personal events in her life
since 1989. Wayne, another good friend and courageous survivor, was
subjected to at least 80 shocks in Kenora over a 20-year period. Today,
almost 15 years later, he still has major memory problems.
memory loss is no "side effect" -- it's a direct and devastating effect
of shock. Erasing memories is an essential aspect of brainwashing, a
grim fact proudly announced by the late Canadian psychiatrist D. Ewen
Cameron. In the 1950s and early 1960s, Cameron conducted his torturous
experiments and inflicted massive doses of electroshock and psychiatric
drugs on approximately 100 patients, mostly women, during the course of
his infamous brainwashing-depatterning experiments in Montreal's Allen
Memorial Institute. Cameron's brainwashing experiments were chiefly
funded by the Canadian government in the amount of approximately
$300,00; the CIA contributed another $62,000.
of Canadian citizens -- approximately 75 percent were women -- were
permanently brain-damaged and disabled. A few brainwashing survivors
have successfully sued the government and won or settled out of court.
Others are still waiting 40 years later to be "compensated" for having
their brains and lives ruined by electroshock and psychiatric drugs.
brainwashing ("ECB") is a more accurate and consciousness-raising term
proposed by shock survivor and critic Leonard Roy Frank, who once was
subjected to both insulin shock and electroshock in California in the
1960s. Shock critic Dr. Peter Breggin, a noted psychiatrist and author,
labels electroshock "electrically induced closed head injury" because
it always damages the brain. Dr. Breggin urges a ban of electroshock
The emotional "high" or euphoria many
survivors experience shortly after a series of shocks is routinely
misinterpreted as "improvement" by shock promoters and psychiatrists.
Euphoria is a common effect of head injury.
people, even highly educated professionals, are surprised when I tell
them electroshock is increasing in Ontario, in other Canadian
provinces, and in many states in the United States. "You mean they're
still doing it?" they ask..
I have statistics from
the Ontario government's Ministry of Health which clearly show large
numbers of shock treatments and numbers of people shocked in Ontario
during the last 20 years. Women and elderly people, especially women 60
years and older, are its main targets.
For example, in 2001-2002,
a total of 14,034 shocks were administered to 1,656 citizens. Over
two-thirds, 68 percent, were women. Elderly women, 65 years and older,
were shocked about three times more often than men. That's why I also
label electroshock a form of elder abuse.
is no law or regulation, to my knowledge, which mandates hospitals in
Ontario and other provinces to report all shock procedures and medical
complications and deaths to the federal minister of health and
provincial ministers of health. So far, such reporting is discretionary
or voluntary. There should be a mandatory electroshock reporting law in
every province in Canada, and in the United States. The public and
researchers should have a right to this information and it should be
easy to access.
The American Psychiatric Association
and Canadian Psychiatric Association have consistently minimized, and
even denied, the extent to which electroshock causes permanent memory
loss and brain damage. Today, Canadian shock doctors and other
psychiatrists still deny the neurological fact of brain damage from
shock and try to rationalize the grand mal seizure which always occurs
during every shock treatment as "therapeutic." Therapeutic seizure?!
Another psychiatric oxymoron.
neurologists, such as John Friedberg, Sydney Sament and Robert Grimm,
neuroscientist Peter Sterling, and psychiatrists Peter Breggin and Lee
Coleman have seen through these professional deceptions, denials and
lies and want shock banned. I totally agree. However, in Canada,
virtually all neurologists have remained ominously and shamelessly
silent about this psychiatric atrocity, which many survivors have
rightly called a crime against humanity.
Attorney General and prominent human rights advocate Ramsey Clark once
asserted, "Electroshock is violence." He made that statement during an
invited address in New York at the Annual Meeting of the American
Psychiatric Association in 1983.
During the 1980s and
1990s in Toronto and Vancouver, hundreds of survivors and supporters,
including myself, publicly and courageously protested against
electroshock in front of notorious shock mills, particularly the Queen
Street Mental Health Centre, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, the
Royal Ottawa Hospital, and Riverview Hospital in Vancouver. In the
United States, many more protests and demonstrations have been
organized in San Francisco and Berkeley, New York City and Syracuse, to
name a few. Unfortunately, these public protests have not led to a
major decrease in electroshock, except for the odd hospital that
stopped doing shock while pushing antidepressants and neuroleptic drugs
-- which also cause brain damage.
electroshock has also occurred, but is usually minimized or covered up
by hospital and government officials in Canada and the United States.
Leonard Roy Frank, a good friend, shock survivor and outstanding
anti-shock activist and author of the classic, A History of Shock Treatment,
has compiled lists of shock deaths. So far, he's documented over 400
deaths related to or caused by electroshock since 1942 in studies
published in the English-language medical literature. No doubt many
more shock deaths have occurred, but have been unreported or covered up
in the United States, Canada and other countries.
1. Electroshock should be totally banned, because this procedure is
inherently harmful and causes brain damage, including permanent memory
A federal law should order the reporting of all electroshock
procedures, including statistics listing the number of procedures and
number of patients, broken down by province, hospital, age and gender.
These reports must include the nature and incidence of all major
medical effects and medical complications including death. These
mandatory reports must be sent to all relevant government officials and
kept in a special databank, and copies of this annual shock report must
be accessible to the public while protecting the identity of patients.
All legislators and public health officials should become educated
about electroshock by attending public hearings that feature testimony
from shock survivors and an independent panel to facilitate the
Don Weitz and Carla McKague co-founded
Phoenix Rising, the first antipsychiatry magazine in Canada totally
controlled by psychiatric survivors. During its 10 years of publication
in Toronto (1980-1990), Phoenix Rising was completely independent,
courageously criticized the psychiatric system, exposed numerous
abuses, and advocated for psychiatric survivors and prisoners by giving
brother and sister survivors a powerful and empowering voice. Weitz is
also a core member of the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA),
which sponsored public hearings on psychiatric drugs and electroshock
in April 2005 in Toronto's City Hall. The reports and survivor
testimonies will be posted this year on the CAPA website:
1515 Webster St,#303
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© 2002-2005 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.
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