Book Review: Shock Therapy by David Healy, Edward Shorter (and Max Fink)

“When science has a commercial basis, those who make a living out of one point of view seem much less likely to tolerate dissent than is normal in the rest of science.”

(David Healy, from his 2004 book Let Them Eat Prozac)

Once, just once, it would be nice to see doctors who use ECT make an argument for their product based on facts and science, without lies and omission, without making stereotypical errors of reasoning, and without lowering themselves to the level of libel by disparaging the sanity and veracity of their former patients. Read the rest of this entry »

Two more blogs of note has a blog and has been documenting the ongoing Eli Lilly legal challenges:

MindFreedom Blog

Next blog is from the makers of the film “Side Effects,” and includes news about the pharmaceutical industry. I’ll soon be viewing and reviewing their new film “Money Talks – Profits Before Patient Safety.” The trailer intrigued me and this looks like it could be a dandy!

Mo Productions

When antidepressants don’t work

Northwest Indiana Times
Feb 3 2007

PORTAGE | Barbara Layton’s depression had become so severe she had only the energy to sit in a rocking chair all day and slowly rock back and forth.

The Hobart native and Portage resident had suffered from depression since she was a teen. At age 21, she attempted suicide. But it wasn’t until she reached 40 that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Like most with the illnesses, she’d been treated with a cocktail of antidepressants. This time, however, they weren’t working.

Suicide again crossed her mind, but she didn’t have the energy to carry out the thought, Layton said.

Instead, after consulting with doctors and educating herself and family members, Layton agreed to undergo electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, more commonly known as electro shock treatments.

After six treatments, Layton’s depression had eased sufficiently that she was released from the hospital and returned to her normal life. That was in 1998.

“It scared me to death,” she said of her initial reaction to the recommendation, but she knew she had to do something.

“It saved my life. It just saved my life, and it was quick,” said Layton, 57.

Layton, founder and executive director of the Porter County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has been an advocate for the mentally ill for years.

She took it a step further last year by agreeing to be one of a dozen ECT patients portrayed in the book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy” by Kitty Dukakis, wife of former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis, and Larry Tye. She also was featured in the DVD documentary “Shock,” produced by AMS Production Group. Both are available through

The reason she agreed to go public on a national level was to continue her efforts to educate people about mental illness, she said. The book, which predominately features Dukakis’ battle with depression and use of ECT, and the DVD both take a look at the pros and cons of ECT.

“I wanted to help fight the stigma. I wanted people to recognize me as me and not as my illness. I am Barbara Layton, not a bipolar,” she said. “I’ve always been vocal about mental illness. There is a lot of stigma attached.”

Layton said her efforts have been to teach others that mental illnesses like hers are not a person’s “fault” and that depression is not something someone can simply “get over.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is the leading cause of disability for people ages 15 to 44.

ECT, while administered to 100,000 people annual in this country, is misunderstood, Layton said. The stigma behind the use of the treatments comes from the media, especially the portrayal of the therapy in films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Frances.” The procedures have changed in administering ECT and are depicted in the DVD.

“I’m very pleased with the video. It shows the pros and cons of ECT. If you’re contemplating this, it is a very good source,” she said, adding the video is objective and that stories are about successful and unsuccessful treatments.

“I want people to know it is safe. I want them to go into it (ECT) very educated and look at it long and hard. This is not for someone with a mild case of depression. It is for someone with a debilitating case who has gone through all the medications.”


The documentary “Shock” featuring Portage resident Barbara Layton is available at for $19.95. The book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy,” which also features Layton’s battle with depression and use of electro shock treatments, also is available at for $17.22.

Video Overview of ECT

A video overview of electroconvulsive therapy by Dr. John Friedberg, author of “Shock Treatment is Not Good for Your Brain.

Says the neurologist: “ECT isn’t new and it isn’t effective. It causes brain damage manifested mostly by amnesia. This video is a brief overview from my perspective as a neurologist.”

Click here to view video at You Tube.

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The Caretaker, Theatre Royal, Brighton, Jan 23-27

The Argus
Jan 19 2007

By Bella Todd

The playwright Terence Rattigan once informed Harold Pinter that he knew exactly what The Caretaker was about: “God, the Holy Ghost and mankind.”

“No,” Pinter replied wearily. “It’s about two brothers and a caretaker.”

When David Bradley first read this jarring modern classic at drama school in the Sixties, he thought he might like to play one of the brothers: Mick, perhaps, alternately brutal and benevolent with a fascinating flicker of sadism, or his dispossessed older brother, Aston, made sweet and slow by electric shock treatment.

“You never think,” he says, “that you’re going to be old enough to play Davies”.

In conversation Bradley is warm and playful and can take on the soft RP of his mentor, Laurence Olivier, or the rhythmic vulgarity of his heroes Pete and Dud with uncanny accuracy.

But at 64, with long, grizzled hair, granite features and a hardening Yorkshire accent, the RSC stalwart seems to be making unconventional caretakers his particular speciality.

Since 2001 Bradley has become known worldwide as Argus Filch, the misanthropic caretaker of Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter films. And he is now starring alongside EastEnder Nigel Harman and Telstar’s Con O’Neill in this touring production of The Caretaker, playing Pinter’s manipulative, belligerent and often grotesquely comic tramp.

Pinter’s 1960 breakthrough play was based on real events which occurred after the playwright, his wife and newborn son moved into a two-room flat on Chiswick High Road.

A kindly man named Austin looked after the other flat in the house for his brother, and one day brought home a tramp he’d met in a cafe.

Pinter’s imagination was sparked by the curious mixture of loneliness and aggression displayed by this unexpected guest, and by his last image of the pair, glimpsed through an open door: Austin, his back to the room, was gazing silently out to the garden. The tramp, apparently given his marching orders, was stuffing his meagre belongings into a grubby holdall.

“He must be the most cantankerous, selfaggrandising, shifty geezer in modern drama,”

says Bradley of the vagabond’s stage incarnation, Davies. “He’s been on the road for most of his life, it seems, and this is his last opportunity to find a bit of warmth, a bit of comfort. He will use any devious means to achieve that, but there’s nothing really complicated about him.

“He’s just a survivor, and no matter how obstreperous he can be, I admire his tenacity.”

In Pinter’s subtle, disturbing and brutally funny play, Aston, in need of a confidant, offers Davies the rather indistinct position of caretaker to the cluttered West London attic. To secure his position, the tramp begins to play off one troubled brother against the other – but reckons without their fraternal love.

“Imagine when this first hit the stage,” says Bradley, himself a working class ex-factory worker who had never heard of RADA until he was advised to audition. “Everyone was used to all these three-act plays with French windows and gin and tonics on the veranda. People with working class accents were confined to being the servants or gardeners.

“Theatre then was a comfort zone, a diversion.

To hear this crackling, aggressive dialogue from the main protagonists must’ve been quite a surprise.”

Simultaneously lyrical yet tough, brutal yet rhythmically precise and full of menacing pauses, Pinter’s style was so groundbreaking in the Sixties that it has become a theatrical adjective. But it’s nothing, Bradley observes, that you wouldn’t hear on the street.

Before rehearsals started for The Caretaker, the actor was driving back from Belgium with his wife and son when he spotted a sign for Sidcup.

It is to this London Borough, where he claims to have left his identifying papers, that Davies spends the play finding excuses not to return.

Curious, Bradley took his family on a detour.

“It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and we didn’t see anything that made me think, this is the world of the play’ until we passed the Working Men’s club,” he recalls.

“Outside there was a whelk stall, and the lady was saying, Awlright darl, what can I do for yer? I ain’t got the prawns today, only got the whelks, jellied eels and cockles.’ “Then this guy in a van screeched off the main road into the car park of the club and shouted, Did you see that? Did you see that bastard? ‘E signalled left, an’ ‘e didn’t even turn left, the bastard. Why? Cos ‘e was on ‘is mobile phone, that’s why’.

“I said, Well, course that’s illegal now’, and he says to me, I don’t care if it is illegal, he shouldn’t be doing it!’ “I thought, my god, that’s Davies talking.”

When Pinter was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, the Academy declared him a playwright who “uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”.

A grand statement that is difficult to appreciate the validity or value of – until Bradley describes some of the audience members who came to the production’s opening run at Sheffield’s Crucible last October.

There were people who had had electric shock treatment in their youth who wept through Aston’s monologue, he says. And there was a group from the local homeless centre.

“They’re still sleeping on the streets at night but go to the centre for a bit of warmth and a meal,”

says Bradley. “They’d never been to the theatre in their lives before and they said, That’s my life up there’. One afternoon me, Con and Nigel went and spent some time there. There was a guy called George who is always going on about shoes, just like Davies.

“One guy said to me, You must’ve spent some time on the streets then, have you? Where were you?’ I says no, I’m just an actor.

“They said, We thought you were one of us.’”

In the coming months, Bradley will be appearing as “a terrifying Manchester paterfamilias” in black BBC comedy True Dare Kiss, and reprising his role as “a terrifying Manchester gangland boss, head to foot in leather with a voicebox” in Johnny Vegas’s Ideal.

He also has a cameo in Shaun Of The Dead follow-up Hot Fuzz, as “a psychotic West Country farmer with a shed full of incomprehensible weapons”.

Most eagerly awaited, of course, is the fifth Harry Potter film, released this July. In Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Bradley forms a double act with Imelda Staunton, who plays Professor Umbridge, the Thatcherite new head of Hogwarts.

“Filch loves her because she’s as strict as he is,”

says Bradley. “I had a lot of fun up a 35ft ladder, clinging on with one hand and hammering proclamations into the hall wall with the other, while four crew guys shook the bottom. I’m not very good with heights.”

Now able to step into the character of Argus Filch in the time it takes to put in the fake teeth and hair extensions, Bradley originally went for the role at the suggestion of his children. A previous bid to raise his playground profile, when he auditioned for the part of a French villain in Superman, failed on the grounds of his French accent. (“I ‘ave ze pow-air,” he offers, tentatively.

“See, not one of my best.”) “I said to the kids, What part do you think I should go up for?’ and they suggested Filch. I was a bit disappointed. At least Snape is suave.

“That’s a bit of a wake-up call, learning that’s how your kids see you.”

On accepting the role, Bradley was prepared to become a hate figure for children everywhere.

Instead he receives fan mail from Australia to Singapore and is often approached in the street and asked to croak one of Crouch’s unlikely catchphrases into a mobile phone. “I always oblige,” he says. “For someone of my tender age it’s very nice.”

With four cats of his own, Bradley also enjoys a good off-screen relationship with Mrs Norris, Filch’s feline sidekick, played by two Maine Coons named Max and Alanis – “as in Alanis Morrisette”, he says of the latter, with a sniff. “Bit of a poncey name for a cat isn’t it? I hope she doesn’t get abuse for it in the cattery.”

The cats are “grunged up” with hair wax and fur-pieces to make them look scraggy, and Bradley uses treats to get them to follow him or jump up on his shoulder. “It often takes a few takes to get the cat to jump up at the right angle,” he says, “so that its backside isn’t covering my face.”

The Harry Potter films have been a chance for Bradley to reunite with many old friends, among them Michael Gambon, Richard Griffith and Alan Rickman, with whom he started at the RSC in 1978 (“he seems to have got better looking, somehow, as he’s got older.”) “It’s nice when you get a tea break, and we sit around among all the dusty cables behind the set for Hogwarts Hall,” he says. “They put a special heater in so we can read our papers and have a gossip.”

But of all the great British actors with whom Bradley has worked, none has had as great an impact on him as Olivier, whose Old Vic he joined in the early Seventies. It’s strange to imagine Bradley as an inexperienced youth, overawed by his mentor and, one supposes, cleanshaven.

“He had me in his office once when I was doing Trofimov in the Cherry Orchard,” he recalls. “Because I was from the North I was doing it like myself, not putting on too much of a posh accent.

“Olivier said, Oh, David, about this Yorkshire accent for Trofimov, why are you playing him as working class?’ So I showed him the bit of the script where Trofimov mentions that he’s the son of a grocer, and he said, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I totally missed that – carry on’.

“I saw him a few days later in the corridor and he said, Darling, I’m so sorry about the grocer, terribly sorry about the grocer.’ He’d say it every time I saw him, and it got the point where I was really embarrassed at having to keep saying it was all right.

“After a few weeks,”

continues Bradley, his voice hoarse with suppressed humour, “I realised that he was winking with every apology. He was just taking the piss.”

  • Starts 7.45pm (matinees Thu and Sat 2.30pm). Tickets £15-£25. Call 08700 606650.
  • Master of the Dark Arts

    Ignored for decades, the twisted genius of Mervyn Peake is finally getting the attention it deserves

    Dec 11, 2006

    With a career encompassing 25 years that included five novels, a handful of plays and thousands of drawings, paintings and sketches, why isn’t Mervyn Peake a more celebrated English literary and artistic hero? A cult figure today, Peake is best known for Gormenghast, his bleak but compelling gothic fantasy trilogy published in the 1940s and ’50s about the hierarchy of a fictional castle, Gormenghast, and the Machiavellian machinations of its inhabitants. But he was also an accomplished illustrator, painter and war artist. “If somebody’s good at everything, then they’re never taken seriously, are they?” muses Chris Beetles, owner of the eponymous gallery in St. James’ in London that hosted a rare exhibition of Peake’s art in October.

    It is precisely this failure to acknowledge Peake’s breadth of talent that Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art, a new and comprehensive guide to his career, seeks to redress. In 1998, Peake’s son Sebastian met Alison Eldred, an avid collector of Peake’s artworks at Beetles’ gallery, and over dinner the new acquaintances decided to compile and edit a book which, says Sebastian, would show his father’s “eclecticism and breadth to a new generation.”

    Though Peake’s talent is indisputable, the source of his marvelously twisted imagination is elusive. Unlike the early years of many masters of the macabre, Peake’s childhood was happy and contented. The son of a doctor with the London Missionary Society, Peake was born in Kuling, China, in 1911 and lived there until he was 11 years old. As a boy, he learned 600 basic Mandarin characters from a Chinese calligrapher, causing later observers to remark on the strange way he held his pen. After his family returned to England, Peake finished his education at Croydon School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools.

    Early in his career, Peake became a documentary war artist during World War II. This experience appears to have pushed his world view and his art into a considerably darker realm. In June 1945, he was among the first British civilians to visit the liberated concentration camp at Belsen, Germany. Most of the former prisoners he saw there were too sick to be evacuated. The stark poems and drawings he made about these victims literally dying before his eyes are nearly too harrowing to bear. Returning to Britain, he finished the first Gormenghast book in 1946 and spent the next 20 years as a writer and illustrator, contributing art to the tales of the Brothers Grimm, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

    While his style is similar to American contemporary Edward Gorey, Peake’s bizarre sensibilities were less cruel. He enjoyed great critical acclaim as an artist during his career — he was commissioned by the Queen Mother to do illustrations for her grandson Prince Charles’ nursery in the 1950s — but he was largely ignored by the literary observers of the time. Kingsley Amis once called Peake “a bad fantasy writer of maverick status.”

    This book shows just how wrong Amis and his cohorts were. The heavily illustrated tome punctuates examples of Peake’s art and excerpts of his writing with purely biographical chapters. Cartoonist Chris Riddell of the Observer Sunday newspaper, Lord of the Rings illustrator John Howe, and others who have been influenced by Peake contribute a range of essays and analysis as well.

    Fantasy and science fiction author Michael Moorcock, who contributes an introduction to the book, says: “Peake is in the great tradition of idiosyncratic English writers. His poetry and fiction, like theirs is sui generis and, like his drawing and painting, reveals authentic genius.” Comic-book writer Alan ( Watchmen, Lost Girls) Moore calls Peake “probably one of the finest writers in the English language,” but says literary snobbery that considers fantasy a lesser art form has contributed to his neglect.

    Already at an ebb in his career, Peake developed Parkinson’s disease in 1956. Despite attempts to improve his health with electroconvulsive therapy — in which high-voltage electricity is passed through the brain — he died in 1968 at the age of 57. His wife Maeve Gilmore, almost destitute after he died, went to the Tate Gallery to sell her husband’s body of work. She was offered £1,500 for the complete collection. Disgusted, she stormed out. If there is any justice, Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art may well ensure that such snubs are not repeated.

    Electroshock Quotationary – now online! By Leonard Roy Frank

    Note: The Electroshock Quotationary is the ONLY place you can read my article “March of the Damned.” It’s a Quotationary EXCLUSIVE!

    Download now!
    by John Breeding, PhD
    In the 1990s update to his terrific book, Electroshock: The Case Against, which offers summaries of activist resistance to electroshock over the last four decades of the 20th century, Robert Morgan offered the following acknowledgment of Leonard Frank.

    His written work on ECT and advocacy against it have straddled the decades covered in this book. Initially disabled by ECT, Leonard devised some particularly ingenious organizational and memory techniques to overcome his resultant learning disabilities. He has devoted his life to addressing and correcting abuses of the psychiatric system, particularly ECT. Although he has been a strong and effective figure in this history over the decades, it is particularly now that he has emerged as a key figure. A tough, gentle, articulate and consummately effective organizer, he has probably done more to advance survivors’ rights than anyone else. A former editor of the Madness Network News (survivors journal) and current primary leader of the opposition, both scientist/professional and survivor, he has been the role model and integrity for a very diverse coalition of independent individuals. Thanks to Leonard, a very well financed and credentialed initiative was defeated, at least in San Francisco, at least for now.

    Leonard Frank has been strong, effective, gentle and tough with me over the last decade as he became a primary mentor and very close friend. He is best described, however, by the dynamics of love and truth. More than anyone, he has helped me to become more clear about language and the patterns of psychiatric oppression. When the idea to form the Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas came into my head last summer, Leonard nurtured the idea with enthusiastic support, and helped us be clear about our Gandhian approach of active, transparent, nonviolent resistance. As we organized ourselves into existence this past fall, Leonard stepped up and has been an integral voice of wisdom, guidance and encouragement. I am grateful to be working shoulder to shoulder with this awesome man, in his fifth decade of activism against psychiatric oppression in general, and electroshock in particular.

    The Electroshock Quotationary is the single best document available to learn about the reality of this horrific practice.

    Download the entire book for free!

    Israeli theater tackles madness, lobotomy, electroshock

    Israel’s Habimah Theater Finally Arrives Stateside
    By Mr. Raphael Mostel

    For its first New York visit in 40 years, the renowned National Theater of Israel, Habimah, will present two fact-based modern dramas involving Jewish children growing up with a parent veering into madness.

    The main production comprises four evening performances, from September 18 to September 21, of the big-scale “Kaddish L’Naomi,” Habimah’s theatrical adaptation of Allen Ginsberg’s searing memorial poem for his mother. It will be performed in Hebrew with English subtitles, multimedia and a cast of nine. On September 20 and September 21, there will also be two matinee performances of the small-scale “Summer of Aviyah,” Gila Almagor’s one-woman dramatic adaptation of her famous coming-of-age memoir of her own mother, performed in English.The run is a major showcase for Almagor, Israel’s most acclaimed actress, as she will also star at Naomi in the Ginsberg show.

    Full story 

    Review: Beyond Stigma: The Compassionate Application of Electro-Convulsive Therapy

    Video Review
    Beyond Stigma: The Compassionate Application of Electro-Convulsive Therapy
    by Linda Andre

    The only reason shock treatment has gotten such an undeserved bad rap is because doctors who give it don’t treat patients nice enough.

    What’s wrong with this statement? If you said nothing, I can think of some prime real estate in Brooklyn that’s for sale real cheap.

    Most people would probably say, “While I have no personal knowledge about shock treatment and haven’t researched it myself, I am willing to take the word of a psychiatrist and member of the American Psychiatric Association, who must know what he’s talking about. Besides he wouldn’t have produced and marketed a tape with such nice music, and couldn’t sell it for so much money, and wouldn’t have a web site devoted to selling it, and wouldn’t be so apparently sincere about it, if it were all a bunch of hooey.”

    Brooklyn Bridge for sale: $10.

    Christian Hageseth might have gotten the idea for his new video, “Beyond Stigma: The Compassionate Application of Electro-Convulsive Therapy,” from watching late-night TV. This is a nation of people who believe in credit-card psychics, he probably said to himself. If the suckers will pay for that, have I got a gimmick for them! In fact, the more unbelievable and outrageous it is, the more they’ll love it! I know! I’ll call it Compassionate ECT!

    You might consider giving Chris points for originality, at least. Surely no one else has ever had the gall to try to market such a bizarre idea. But sadly, there are one or two precedents. In the 1970s, shock doctor HC Tien tried to change shock’s name and reputation: he called his version ELT, or Electro-Love-Therapy. The “Love” was a form of shock so intense that patients, who were always women, frequently those not happy in their housewife and mother roles, forgot their entire identities and regressed to the point of having to be bottle-fed. They were then resocialized by Tien into their housewife and mother roles, and Tien and the husbands were pleased with the results. The women even took new names to distance their new docile personalities from their old troublesome ones.

    At one time in the 80s, I believe there was also a shock machine company that advertised “A Machine with a Memory—and Compassion.” Perhaps the machines sucked up and acquired the stolen memories of the patients they were attached to. No one explained how the machines came by compassion. Anyway, the compassion thing never caught on as a marketing slogan, until now.

    It turns out that Chris has a different idea of what compassion is. But before we ask what he means, let’s just look at the logical absurdities of his fundamental premise. You don’t need a Ph.D. to do this. ECT is the application of electricity to the human brain to produce grand mal seizures. The brain is the brain (humans haven’t changed much in the past 50 years), electricity is electricity, and what happens when they meet is governed by the laws of physics, not by what patients do in the waiting room, how reassuring the doctor is, what the patient is wearing, how many people are present when shock is done, or anything else Hageseth thinks can magically affect what shock is and does.

    Since shock always causes permanent memory loss of weeks, months or years, and since that memory loss almost always includes the actual administration of the shocks, the patients will never remember any of those things anyway. Had they been misled by his recommended tricks to feel slightly less anxious before the shock, they won’t know or care about this afterwards. We can’t help asking: Who is Hageseth seeking to reassure, and, who is he seeking to benefit by making this video? It can’t be his patients.

    “The stigma of ECT didn’t just happen,” Hageseth claims. “It came about because of the way it was administered in the past.”

    Maybe, he suggests, getting ECT should be more of a happy occasion, like having a baby. He even says that psychiatry should take cues from obstetrics: set up special “suites” just for ECT, for instance. Most hospitals already do this. The logical problem for Hageseth’s theory is that obstetrics, unlike psychiatry, did not get stigmatized for not having special suites, or for having ‘small and crowded’ rooms, or for not allowing family members to be present during procedures for which patients are unconscious. Nor did any other medical or surgical procedures, which, cosmetically at least, resemble shock—requiring surgical gowns, anesthesia, special rooms, and life-support equipment. Why aren’t these procedures, and the professionals who give them, stigmatized because of “the way they are administered?” Might there just be something else that is different about psychiatry in general, and shock in particular?

    There can’t be, he insists. He protests too much. ECT suites are not enough, he says. We must do ECT with compassion.

    What does he mean by compassion?

    Turns out, something different from what the rest of us think it is. He’s confused compassion with infantilism, a switch that speaks volumes about his opinion of his patients. The video not only tells us about, but demonstrates, Hageseth’s brand of compassion.

    First, it involves mural wallpaper. Hageseth papered his free-standing Colorado psychiatric clinic in photographic murals of forests and mountains. In fact, there’s a little trompe l’oeil sequence in the video where you just see the forest scene until the view expands, and you see it’s only wallpaper. The clue is that the scene is interrupted, fittingly, by electrical outlets that couldn’t be papered over. Humans have an affinity for nature, Hageseth tells us very seriously, the difference between a real forest and a wallpaper forest in a psych clinic being minimal.

    He’s even put a picture of a bird on the ceiling of the room where the patients are anesthetized so they can have a more pleasant experience of losing consciousness just before shock. Watch out: if this catches on for tonsillectomies, they too might shed their stigma.

    The next way Hageseth thought of to show his consideration for the patients whose brains he is about to burn is to offer them a choice in paper gowns: they can have their unconscious bodies covered in a pattern of brightly colored balloons, Bugs Bunny, or Tweety and Sylvester.

    The video pointlessly has one of Hageseth’s employees, a burly gray-bearded social worker named Al, “act” as a shock patient in order to demonstrate the gowns, the IV, the heart monitors, and so on. Al’s acting style is strictly tongue in cheek, and he doesn’t look too good in balloons. Perhaps he should have chosen Tweety.

    To Al’s credit, when Hageseth asks him if he can touch his wrists (wrist-touching being meant to signify “compassion”), Al doesn’t smirk.

    Later, an actual patient, a fifty-ish woman named Jan Law, is filmed just prior to, and in the process of, getting shocked.

    “Tell us about the teddy bears,” Hageseth encourages, and Jan explains how she used to be scared of shock until she began taking a stuffed bear in with her to the shock room. She then tells us that, after getting Hageseth’s permission, she began passing out teddy bears to his other shock patients. She’s also seen in a roomful of them queued up for shock, praying with and for them.

    One who has been watching this video up to this point, who has never had shock or even heard of it, might reasonably be confused by the double message. If shock’s so wonderful, (we celebrate it, call it “an honoring of the soul” and make commemorative videos of ourselves having it so we can watch it over and lover like a child’s first steps) then why is everyone so scared? Why are they praying if there’s no danger? Why must fifty year olds resort to clutching childhood toys?

    The answer won’t be found anywhere in the video; it is willfully, perhaps skillfully, but very maliciously, left out. There is no doubt that Christian Hageseth knows that shock causes permanent memory loss (always) and permanent cognitive damage (frequently) resulting in a net personal loss that can be life-crippling or life-ending. I know this because of my personal communications with him. We know it because he admits on the video that it happened to his own mother. Yet the video assures us that there is absolutely no danger in getting shock. For some reason, (cowardice, fear of lawsuits?) Hageseth enlists another psychiatrist from Colorado named Steven Dubovsky, whom he calls an expert, but who has no special qualifications, in a set-up “question and answer” session where Dubovsky mouths the party line of the American Psychiatric Association.

    Viewers are not told that all the research he cites — for example, the article claiming shock treatment improves rather than damages memory,, or the one which claims a woman who had over 1,000 shocks showed no brain damage on autopsy — was done by members of the APA’s small “Task Force” on shock. They are men who have made a career out of doing and/or promoting it and who either own or have lucrative financial deals with the companies that make the shock machines. These men invented and popularized the theory, cited by Dubovsky, that all the people who complain about shock do so because they are just crazy and are imagining memory loss where none exists.

    Oh yes. did I mention that these guys also get fat fees like $6,000 a day for saying these things in court?

    Dubovsky has obviously been well coached, and he’s tricky. He sounds scientific and could convince — intends to convince — those who don’t know what he’s leaving out or lying about. He says “the only physical risk with ECT is the risk associated with brief general anesthesia. There’s no increased risk for the ECT itself.”

    Funny, but people don’t die of brief general anesthesia at the rate they die from ECT (approximately 1 in 200), and brief general anesthesia doesn’t usually cause brain hemorrhaging, cardiac arrest, or forgetting things like your name or how to read. Later on, he says “any brain damage that you get is probably from not breathing during the treatment — not the ECT itself.” Then he corrects himself, using a semantic trick he’s learned from the APA: “There is no credible evidence of credible damage to the brain.”

    I think he messed up and meant to say no credible evidence of objective damage to the brain. See how easy this is: you simply discount all the evidence that does exist which is unfavorable to ECT as not “credible” or “objective.” They you’re not really lying. Just to be safe, though, it’s wise to cross your fingers behind your back while you say this.

    Hageseth then brings out his obedient patient, Jan Law, and her husband and adult children. Jan wears a big red bow in her hair and begins every sentence with “Gosh!” Hageseth feeds her questions designed to elicit the answers he wants, mostly about how bad depression is. The family complains about what a bad housewife Jan was when she wasn’t getting shocked.

    “I had to make all the meals,” the husband whines.

    “I was pretty bitter because we all ended up doing a lot of the housework, a lot of chores. It was an embarrassment to me,” says the daughter. they all laugh in relief that shock has made Jan a better housewife. It is eerily reminiscent of HC Tien and his bottle-sucking “Electro-Love” patients. Hageseth gives Jan “maintenance” shock, which means one shock every month or so. In maintenance, which has never been researched, the brain never has a chance to heal before being zapped again. The patient is essentially maintained in a constant state of organic brain syndrome. As anyone who’s had shock knows, when you are organic, you will do or say anything. Most survivors have stories about things they can’t remember doing and can’t believe they did. It is during this time that patients may thank their doctors for saving their lives, or are easily persuaded to talk other patients into shock. Later, as the acute organic brain syndrome wears off, the person comes to realize the extent of her memory and cognitive losses and feels very differently about her treatment. It is fair to say that *anyone* interviewed during or right after shock, would feel well, even euphoric, as a result of brain damage and would say anything a doctor asked.

    We then see Jan actually getting her maintenance shock, and the teddy bear is there from start to finish. She’s wearing the same clothes as in the interview and it’s not clear whether the interview was before or after. Her family watches and then is given the printout from her EEG as a souvenir. The last we see of her she’s being supported by her husband as she walks to her car, a gray-haired woman with a red hair bow, still clutching a teddy bear.

    If you are a shock survivor, or know one, it’s enough to make you cry, or puke. The description I’ve given isn’t sufficient to explain the effect the video has on survivors. When I first watched it, I screamed loud enough to scare my dog. Others who have seen it have laughed hysterically.

    You actually have to see the video to experience how much worse it is than it sounds. There’s a pompous pseudo-religiosity to the way it’s presented, from the opening strains of Amazing Grace, to Hageseth’s quotes from Buber, and his prodding Jan to say that shock improved her spiritual life, to the end where Amazing Grace comes back on while Hageseth, wearing fuzzy slippers, reads his own godawful poetry about suicide while a blazing log is superimposed over his face. You get the sense that his purpose is to elevate ECT from a treatment to a sacrament.

    His high, whiny voice doesn’t help. Throughout, he’s so deadly serious he’s like a cross between a Sunday morning televangelist and Mr. Rogers — patronizing you while trying to sell you something. Come on kids, can you say “Scrambled brains are big money?”

    Even this is not enough to explain why the video is not only so viscerally horrifying, but so morally reprehensible. The tape transcends silly self-promotion, even the commonplace deception-for-profit of other tapes. If it were just another commercial for shock, we’d sigh and deconstruct its lies. It would just be evil. Evil that pretends to be good becomes evil in a new and worse way. Something that truly is sacred has been vilified.

    Like compassion. Hageseth wants to trademark it while turning it into its opposite. There is a true “honoring of the soul” (as Hageseth calls shock), and there is real compassion, and it has nothing to do with teddy bears, or wrist touching, or cartoon gowns. It involves allowing people to make their own decisions and control their own lives. The teddy bears are nothing but a gesture of contempt, a statement that Hageseth doesn’t consider his patients adult enough to be trusted with truthful information about shock, or to make up their own minds about it. After all, if they were allowed to do this, they might make a decision the grown-ups (doctors) don’t agree with. Like children, they must be protected for their own good by the adults who really know what’s good for them. Perhaps Hageseth is a kind of marketing genius to make the connection between deceiving patients and infantilizing them. Perhaps he’ll make a fortune welling these videos at $80 each. Like any crime, this video does leave the survivor or sophisticated viewer searching for a motive: Why did he do this? I don’t think it’s just money: I think it’s simpler and more pathetic. Why else go into such detail about his mother, in the video and also on his web site? Chris was only five years old, a terrified little boy, when the doctors dragged his mommy off to the mental hospital and shocked her. When she returned, Hageseth tells us in his Mr. Rogers fashion, she didn’t remember who he was. She had permanent memory loss and was bitter about it for the rest of her life. But like Tien’s women, he says she did eventually function in the way she was expected to.

    Now it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that the big Chris is shocking the hell out of his mother each time he presses the button. When he looms over Jan in the recovery room, is he hoping she will wake up, or hoping she won’t? Either way, he is now the one in control of what most scared him.

    Does Hageseth hate his mommy or love her? Oooh, that’s getting into mental quicksand that Hageseth should not have tried to drag the general public into. It’s not pretty. I don’t know what Freud would say, but my take on it is that the video’s the ultimate act of passive aggression towards his poor brain-damaged mother. Kind of like saying “I love you,” while stabbing the knife into the back, getting back at her for not recognizing him when he was little and needed her. But no matter what he’s symbolically doing to his mother with his “compassionate ECT” scheme, there should be no doubt that he knows exactly how much he’s screwing other patients and their families. I imagine him and his crew doubled over laughing between takes, saying to each other, “I can’t believe we’re getting away with this! There’s a sucker born every minute!”

    He’s laughing all the way to the bank.