WINNER: Gorham and Robin Nicol – How to get in the shock machine business


The true story of Gorham and Robin Nicol!

by Linda Andre

Note: The following may seem incredible, but it comes straight from the horses’ ass—er, mouth. It is based on the testimony of Gorham Nicol at the trial of his shock machine company Mecta in October 2005. All quotes are from the court transcript.

nicol.jpgWith all the media coverage on the “comeback of ECT” over the past thirty years, you’ve probably been wondering how you can get a little piece of the action. You may have thought about starting your very own shock machine company, but didn’t know how. Perhaps you thought you didn’t qualify to run a medical device company because you didn’t have any medical degrees or scientific background, or any training whatsoever that would qualify you to manufacture devices. Maybe you were afraid of those pesky FDA regulations, thinking the government would hold you responsible for proving your device safe, and then where would you be with no money or staff to conduct scientific safety studies? Maybe you were afraid you just didn’t know enough about shock or shock machines to be making them.

So here you are, reading this page instead of making millions on shock machines. Well, let the story of Gorham and Robin Nicol, husband-and-wife owners and sole directors of the Mecta shock machine company, be an inspiration to you. They didn’t have any experience or knowledge about shock, or any particular interest, or even any money of their own to invest, but did they let that hold them back? No way!

Robin’s only got a degree in English, and Gorham is an MBA. As Gorham tells the story, they didn’t really plan to buy a shock machine company. It just sort of happened. He walked into a building one day looking to buy another company that he’d heard was a good investment, and it just happened to be the same building that housed the Mecta Corporation. Mecta was having a kind of fire sale at the time, going out of business due to bankruptcy. Gorham didn’t even know what a shock machine was, but ever the alert businessman, he sniffed an opportunity. He asked his close friend, shock doctor Barry Maletzsky, if a shock machine company would be a good investment. (Barry Maletzsky achieved notoriety in the late 1970s by inventing “multiple-monitored ECT”, a technique in which more two are more seizures are induced at one time. The Mecta device was invented specifically for this purpose. Even the APA now says this technique is “not recommended”. Even Richard Abrams—see him in the Hall of Shame—doesn’t like it.) According to Gorham, Maletzky “told us what a fantastic piece of equipment this would be if it were made available on the market, and we went with that…He said that it was an outstanding, leading-edge product and that he thought it would be a good investment for us…My father-in-law put up the money and we bought it.”

That was all. The Nicols didn’t know anything about ECT and weren’t interested in learning. It was just another investment for them, just like their other company Easybar, which manufacturers drink-dispensing equipment for bars and restaurants. Shock machines, soda machines; electricity, beverages, what’s the difference? You just buy the company, pay people to make the things, and sit back and rake in the profits. They’d inherited engineers when they bought the company, so they didn’t need to know anything about the machines or how to build them (and his testimony makes clear, they still don’t.)

Someone, of course, has to tell the engineers what to do. Good thing the Nicols have friends who are psychiatrists! From its inception shock doctor Richard Weiner has been Mecta’s main man. He and Harold Sackeim (who has his own place in the Hall of Shame) design the machines, the engineers build them, and Robin sells them. Easy—why, you could do it too! Weiner and Sackeim both admit to a 20-year-+ relationship with Mecta, copping to getting tens of thousands from them. That’s what they say, but come on, it’s got to be much more; clearly the clueless drink-dispensing couple would be out of business in two seconds without the shock docs. As a former Mecta engineer says, “When Harold calls, they jump.”

Of course, it’s unethical to take money from a company when you’re simultaneously accepting millions of dollars in federal grant money to investigate that company’s product (as both Weiner and Sackeim have done these past 20 years), and illegal not to disclose the shock company dollars—but hey, who’s looking?

As far as the FDA law on medical devices which is such a source of concern to manufacturers of other medical devices, who go to great lengths to comply with it…well, Gorham and Robin don’t sweat that little detail, they just ignore it, and they’ve never gotten into trouble. Gorham doesn’t even know what Class III means. He only heard that the FDA categorizes medical devices in terms of risk when he was on the witness stand in 2005.

Gorham has his own standard on ECT’s safety. It’s more akin to religion than science. Without any scientific data or studies, he’s content to just rely on his feelings and beliefs. “I don’t believe that it’s possible that there’s brain damage. Not even possible.” “I don’t feel there are risks.” Now, there. Doesn’t that make us all feel better?

That seems to be the position of a corrupt, industry-friendly FDA as well. So far, they haven’t called on the company to submit a Premarket Approval Application (PMA) as required by law for all Class III medical devices. If they ever did, it’s clear that Gorham and Robin would be stumped. And in that scenario, federal law requires that a medical device be taken off the market. Asked if he had any employees who were capable of conducting scientific clinical studies (as required for a PMA), Gorham replied emphatically, “Absolutely not.” He doesn’t even know that his company has never submitted such an application! But are the shock machine entrepreneur couple concerned? Nah.

They’ll just rely on Weiner and Sackeim to take care of the FDA for them. After all, Weiner has worked tirelessly to uphold the interests of Mecta Corporation at the FDA since 1982, wearing his hat as the Chairman of the “APA Task Force on the FDA”, and never ever revealing his financial interest in the device to the agency. It’s a little-known fact that back in 1982, FDA was ready to call for PMAs on the ECT device. Richard Weiner forestalled that by filing a petition with the FDA to reclassify the device to Class II without a safety investigation; he then lobbied every single member of the APA to write to the FDA with the message Do not conduct a safety investigation of the ECT device; just take our word that it’s safe. Hell, we’re doctors. This went on for more than twenty years. And that put the fear of God (or the APA, same thing) into the FDA so that they backed down and never conducted their own safety investigation or required the device manufacturers to do so.

One would hope that Gorham’s bought Richie a nice gold watch for his long years of service to the company.

No wonder Mr. and Mrs. Nicol are not worried about—hey, they’re not even aware of—federal regulations requiring suspected injuries caused by their devices to be reported to the FDA. FDA, Schmef-DA. They’ve never made any such reports.

In 2001, a report was made that a woman died as a result of a stroke suffered during ECT with a Mecta machine. The FDA became aware of it and contacted Mecta, but nothing happened, not even a slap on the wrist. No wonder the Nicols are so blase about the FDA.

On the witness stand defending his company against charges that his machine erased 30 years of a man’s life and reduced his IQ to the level of mental retardation, Gorham made it clear about twenty-seven different ways that he will never, ever believe any reports of harm from ECT made by patients. Who are all those patients anyway? Do they buy shock machines? Well, if not, they’re no concern of his. Why should he care? His clients are the doctors, and as he said repeatedly, none of them have any complaints with his machines whatsoever. Mecta will ignore any report of serious memory loss unless “it comes from the doctor or a hospital”, not a patient. “If a doctor complained,” he said, “we would investigate to the nth degree. We just have never had a complaint.” Asked what he would deem a complaint serious enough to be concerned about, he conceded that a death would be serious in some circumstances, but only “if it came from the hospital or a doctor.” But then ECT has never killed a doctor, or erased one’s memory, or taken one point off his IQ.

There is one small downside to owning a shock machine company. Lawsuits. Mecta’s been sued seven times and has had to pay out a token amount of settlement money. As Gorham grumbles, “Finish one, start another, finish one, start another.” He prefers to see them as one continuous lawsuit. He even thinks they’re all secretly brought by the same people conspiring to put him out of business. Seven, ten, twelve, what’s the difference? All you do is hand them over to your lawyers and pay Rich Weiner twenty to thirty thousand per lawsuit as an “expert witness”, no need to bother your head about them. No one’s won such a suit and it hasn’t put a dent in the company’s profits. So really, despite that small annoyance, it’s still a great business to own.

In fact, business appears to be booming. Besides the USA, Mecta sells machines to Europe, to China, to Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Albania, Egypt, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey (a news article on the scandal of the use of ECT without anesthesia in Turkey featured a photo of a Mecta machine)….all over the world.

Sorry Mecta, but you might have some more competition soon. The secret’s out about how really, really easy it is to make money on shock machines! A rich daddy, a few friendly psychiatrists, and you’re in business.

Welcome Mr. and Mrs. Nicol! You may not be doctors, you may not have advanced degrees, but you are up there in the pantheon with the shock docs: You’re the 2006 inductees into the ECT.ORG Hall of Shame!

The top 33 reasons why Gorham Nicol of Mecta richly deserves the Hall of Shame award:

(Questions from lawyers and his responses at Mecta’s product liability trial)

1. Q: Your qualifications to own and operate a medical device company are what?

A: I have an MBA in business administration.

2. Q: Did you read any literature about ECT at the time that you purchased the company?

A: Dr. Maletzsky furnished us with some material…I didn’t go into a lengthy study of the pros and cons of ECT at that time.

3. Q: Had you come to some conclusions regarding the practice of ECT at the time you got the company?

A: Well, I felt it was safe.

Q: What was that conclusion based on?

A: Doctors were demanding it.

5. Q: Did you do any investigation into the harms caused by ECT?

A: I felt no need to do any investigating because I was once a year kind of immersed in it at the APA and I never heard a complaint.

6. Q: Have you ever looked at the FDA records of people that have filed complaints against ECT?

A: No. I talk to doctors that are practicing at the APA, and they haven’t brought any concerns to us as an manufacturer about the way our equipment is performing. So why would I do that?

7. Q: Did you read any of the books that were critical of ECT?

A: No. I believe I was aware of Friedman’s (sic) book. I haven’t seen it, but I heard that he wrote it.

8. Q: Did you make a search of any library indices?

A: I think we have been focusing more on improving equipment, adding features, that kind of thing. That is where my effort would go if I were going to take time to work on it.

9. Q: Why don’t you type in ECT on a computer and hit search and see what comes up?

A: Because I’m busy running another business.

10. Q: Do you have any knowledge concerning the physical effects on the body from ECT machines?

A: No.

11. Q: Have you heard that the purpose of an ECT machine is to cause a grand mal seizure?

A: I have heard that a number of times. Like, initially when I bought the company I was told that was what the machine did.

12. Q: None of Mecta’s ECT devices have ever undergone an FDA premarket approval process of scientific review to insure safety and efficacy, have they?

A: I’m not sure.

Note: The correct answer is No.

13. Q: The devices are marketed only on the basis that they are substantially equivalent to the shock devices that were being manufactured prior to 1976; correct?

A: I don’t believe that is correct.

The correct answer is: Yes, that is correct.

(At this point in his testimony, opposing counsel objects to Gorham’s lawyer giving him hand signals, apparently trying to communicate to his client that he had just given a wrong answer. To no avail; Gorham continues to give wrong answers.)

14. Q: Has Mecta conducted any risk assessments for its machines?

A: No.

15. Q: Does Mecta have any obligation to make reports to the FDA if there is an allegation against the company of damage due to their device?

A: I’m not sure.

The correct answer is: Yes.

16. Q: What, in your view, are the risks associated with your machine?

A: I don’t feel there are risks.

17. Q: Memory loss is not a risk of your machine; right?

A: Not of the machine.

18. Q: Didn’t Dr. Maletzky tell you there are a lot of risks to this machine?

A: No.

19. Q: If you were aware that only 26 percent of the APA psychiatrists who were surveyed disagreed with the statement that ECT causes at least slight or subtle brain damage, would you have conducted any risk assessment of your machine?

A: I would not have.

20. Q: As one of the board members and the vice president of the company, why didn’t you try to find out what kind of cognitive deficits this practice caused?

A: I had not heard of the cognitive deficits in the industry when I bought the company. The fact that doctors were excited about it, University of Oregon med school had put this machine together and the company had gone bankrupt was an opening for us to come in.
That’s why we bought it.

21. Q: Are you familiar with an adverse event reporting system by the FDA?

A: No.

22. Q: I want to know if you have ever done any safety studies on humans to see if it’s safe to use on human beings?

A: Those studies are done by the experts in the field, and we take the results of their expertise. Mecta is a machine manufacturer, and we make what we think is the best piece of equipment in the world, and we don’t do tests on humans in our plant.

23. Q: Have you never commissioned anyone to do any tests on humans to make sure your machine is safe to actually use on human beings?

A: No.

24. Q: Mecta doesn’t have any employees in the corporation with medical training, does it?

A: No.

25. Q: You don’t have any idea where the electricity goes in the brain that’s used in your machines, do you?

A: No.

26. Q: You don’t know whether the electricity destroys neurons, do you?

A: No.

27. Q: Do you know if the electricity in the machine causes any damages to brain cells?

A: No.

28. Q: In the past 25 years Mecta has never conducted any research of its own into the safety and efficacy of its ECT machines, has it?

A: That event needs to take place in the industry. We have used what the experts have found to be true.

29. Q: You haven’t done any survey of the purchasers of the machines either to find out if any patients have been harmed by the machine, have you?

A: No.

30. Q: Do you believe your machines are totally safe?

A: Yes.

31. Q: If any complaints are made against the machine, they can’t be legitimate?

A: If a doctor complained, we would investigate it to the nth degree. We have just never had a complaint in the 23 years.

32. Q: Is three anybody that is employed at the company that is capable of conducting scientific studies, clinical studies with human beings with respect to the effects of ECT?

A: Absolutely not.

33. Q: Severe loss of memory, would that be a serious enough complaint to deal with?

A: If it comes from the doctor or the hospital, yes. We don’t deal with it unless it’s from a doctor or hospital.

Comments (2)

Robert BarnhiselMarch 20th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Gorm Nichol is a lier and a fraud in the food service industry

MDSeptember 16th, 2017 at 10:51 pm

So this is based on false interpretation, firstly ECT has helped thousands of individuals, yes it does “reset” the brain and can effect the brain cells in your non technical terms. But the brain cells that it affects need to be changed in order to treat the ailment. Amnesia can be permanant yes, but that is rare. Most of the amnetsic individuals regained back their memory within 6 months without any intervention. Thirdly, I believe with todays media, you can sell any idea, good or bad by showing numbers that are cherry picked to support what you want to sell, this whole page is doing just that. No body is a liar, fraud if they are making money out of it, it is called business, an MBA does not have to know the machine because he is not going to the person that will actually be treating the patients. He is just there to make his buck.

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