Slaughterhouse inspired 'barbaric' use of ECT
Sir - I am writing having read the article 'Inhumane' shock therapy is on rise (SI, 29/10/06).
Dr Michael Corry, a consultant psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychosocial Medicine in Dun Laoghaire, has rightly described electric shock treatment or ECT as 'barbaric'. While other psychiatrists and other mental health professionals may attempt to extol the virtues of ECT, all they are doing is deceptively cloaking a brutal so-called 'treatment' in medical legitimacy.
Few are aware that a Rome slaughterhouse inspired this so-called scientific procedure. In 1938, psychiatrist Ugo Cerletti observed butchers incapacitating pigs with electric shocks to render them more docile prior to slitting their throats. Inspired, Cerletti conducted further experiments on pigs, finally concluding that "these clear proofs caused all my doubts to vanish, and without more ado I gave instructions in the clinic to undertake, next day, the experiment upon man".
Dr John Friedberg, a neurologist who has researched the effects of ECT for over 30 years, stated, "It is very hard to put into words just what shock treatment does to people generally. It destroys people's ambition, and their vitality. It makes people rather passive and apathetic. Besides, the amnesia, the apathy and the lack of energy is, in my view, the reason that [psychiatrists] still get away with giving it."
A Royal College of Psychiatrists survey conducted on psychiatrists, psychotherapists and general practitioners confirmed memory loss as an effect of ECT. Of the 1,344 psychiatrists surveyed, 21 per cent referred to "long-term side effects and risks of brain damage, memory loss [and] intellectual impairment".
In spite of its sophisticated trappings of science, the brutality of ECT verifies that psychiatry has not advanced beyond the cruelty and barbarism of its earliest treatments. Physically intrusive, and damaging, it violates the doctor's pledge to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and "Do no harm". The ECT procedure is no more scientific or therapeutic than being hit over the head with a bat.
Brian Daniels, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (UK), West Sussex, England
Sir - Having read the letter from Mrs Power (SI, 5/12/06) you would have to wonder if this little nation is as civilised as most of us would wish to believe, and indeed, would want other nations to do like-wise. Her eloquent elucidation regarding ECT must have been an eye-opener for the many readers of your paper.
William J Kehoe, Killarney, Co Kerry