TESTIMONY OF JOHN M. FRIEDBERG, M.D., NEUROLOGIST, BEFORE THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMITTEE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MARTIN LUSTER PRESIDING
NYC, May 18, 2001
"In view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they (the masses) more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big." Adolph Hitler. Mein Kampf, Vol.1, Ch. 10, 1924 tr. Ralph Manheim, 1943
My name is John Friedberg. I am a board certified neurologist practicing in Berkeley, California.
I was born in Far Rockaway (NYC) in 1942, graduated Lawrence High School, Yale University and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and for the past twenty years Ive been seeing patients with every conceivable neurologic problem, from headaches to Huntingtons, in my office and in hospitals.
I am in good standing with my hospitals, professional societies and licensing boards and Im proud to say Ive never been successfully sued.
In 1975 I published my book "Shock Treatment Is Not Good For Your Brain" and in 1979 "Shock Treatment, Brain Damage and Memory Loss," a peer reviewed article in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
I do not believe in mental illness. Depression is no more "the same as diabetes" than heartbreak is the same as a heart attack.
I do not believe in hypothetical diseases of the mind but there is no mistaking damage to the brain. Psychiatric drugs and electroshock inflict real injury in the name of treating fictive maladies. Paul Henri Thomas has Tardive Dyskinesia and heptatitis from psychiatric drugs and amnesia from the ECT.
BASIS FOR OPINIONS
My opinions are based on my years of experience with patients and review of records from all over the country as an expert witness electroshock malpractice cases. They are based on ECT statistics from the six states which mandate reporting; and of necessity, my opinions are based on a lifetime following publications and statements issuing from the small but vocal minority of psychiatrists who believe in ECT and usually nothing but.
Fortunately for me, the believers dont always believe each other; their data frequently belie their conclusions; and what they actually do contradicts what they say they do. The truth slips out.
As one example: we have known since the 1950s that confining electroshock to the non-verbal hemisphere (usually the right as in "unilateral non-dominant ECT") causes less verbal impairment and memory loss than bilateral ECT but the recommendation to begin with non-dominant ECT is honored mostly in the breech.
Another example: the "grandfather" of ECT, Dr. Max Fink claims the rate of memory loss is 1 in 200. He has repeated this so often it sounds like a fact. But Harold Sackeim, Ph.D., just as much an enthusiast and just as aggressive, says Finks figure has "no scientific basis."
Who to believe? My view is that memory loss from ECT is no "side effect;" its the main effect and the best studies find it in 100% of subjects.
Incidentally, Dr. Fink didnt pick the number 1/200 out of thin air. 1/200 has consistently been the death rate from ECT administration - as far back as 1958 and as recently as Texas and Illinois in the 1990s.
FIVE BIG LIES
Big Lie 1: Dr. Fink tells people that ECT is safer than childbirth. If one out of every 200 women were dying in delivery it would be front page news.
Big Lie 2: ECT doesnt cause brain damage. One picture will refute that. The illustration below (MRI on the right, CT left, same patient) depicts a large hemorrhage from ECT. Hemorrhages, large and small, cause permanent seizure disorders in some patients.