Memory loss prompts woman to stop treatment

USA Today Series

Memory loss prompts woman to stop treatment

Like most shock patients, Jeanne Bengston of Hilton Head, S.C., was shown an “educational” video before getting her series of shock treatments.

The video, sold by shock machine manufacturer MECTA Corp. of Lake Oswego, Ore., does not mention death rates or the views of critics who believe that shock causes brain damage.

Instead, the video ends with a patient declaring: “It was a good experience. If I do feel myself slipping, I’d like to come back for a tune-up. It works!”

For Bengston, the reality was more complicated.

She became severely depressed last fall after having knee surgery; for some reason, every hospital visit in her life – whether to give birth or have an operation – has triggered depression.

“Something about being in the hospital – either the environment or a reaction to anesthesia – triggers her depression,” says her husband, Dean, a retired Air Force pilot.

She received nine shocks in November 1994. Her depression lifted temporarily but quickly returned. She had 12 more shocks in March and April.

The doctors wanted to give more shocks, but the Bengstons stopped because she was experiencing serious memory loss.

Jeanne Bengston isn’t depressed anymore, and much of her memory has come back, but not all of it.

She can’t remember family trips taken two years earlier. She doesn’t play bridge as well. And she has to use recipes to make food she once knew how to make by heart.

Dean Bengston isn’t sure whether the shock therapy or the passage of time was responsible for ending his wife’s depression.

“The doctors wanted us to go on, but I’m convinced now it was right to stop when we did. It’s a hard decision to make. There are so many factors, and we probably don’t know them all.”

By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

Comments (2)

gloria mirandaNovember 4th, 2006 at 5:39 pm

im doing a report on ect effects i would like to know different effects of ect plz.

wanda coppJuly 27th, 2008 at 3:49 pm

My mom is in the hospital now and has recieved four shock treatments, every other day for almost two weeks. She does not remember how she got there or any of our visits. It is bizarre, every time I see her it is like Ground Hog Day-we have the same conversations because she does not remember. They want her to have another one tomorrow-I am not sure whether they should keep doing this-does she have the right to stop and come home?

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