USA Today Series on ECT


About this series...an overview of the series and the history of ECT.

Famous ECT patients. How did ECT affect Dick Cavett, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, Lou Reed, Ernest Hemingway and Sylvia Plath?

How does ECT work? Researchers disagree, but here are the current theories.

Some of the issues surrounding electroconvulsive therapy

Hospitals such as Mayo and UCLA are quietly studying the effects of ECT on children. Only two states ban the use of ECT on those under 12. Proponents say it works on behavior and mood. Opponents say it's harming still-developing brain tissue.

Reporter Dennis Cauchon used that old tenet of journalism...follow the money trail. This article highlights the many conflicts of interest encircling ECT. The scandal is much deeper, and the Shocked! page will be reporting on this in the near future. What's wrong with owning one of the manufacturers of ECT machinery? Well, how would you feel if your doctor owned part of Pfizer, and therefore prescribed only Zoloft, even though Paxil might work better for you?

Informed consent. This is the biggest issue among ECT advocates, and one all people should agree on...ECT patients deserve complete, informed consent. Yet very often, they don't get it. Richard Abrams, in his text "Convulsive Therapy," advocates 'passive implied consent.' I don't understand how anyone can argue against informed consent, yet ECT advocates do it, arguing that mental patients don't know what's best for them.

ECT is sometimes proclaimed to be a miracle, quick-fix cure. However, most often, any positive results don't last beyond four weeks. This article examines some of the studies that are available, success rates and other questions.

The ECT advocates say severe memory loss doesn't exist. Most people who have had ECT say it does. This article contains some information on memory loss.

Personal stories on ECT

These articles are about the real people of ECT...the patients who have undergone the treatment. You'll find positive and negative outcomes.

Valerie is 8 years old, and credits her dog with curing her depression. Her mother says it was the 19 ECT treatments she had. Her psychiatrist says that eventually, Valerie would have gotten better, but that the ECT made recovery quicker.

Gene Decker credits shock with saving his life. He has side effects, such as memory loss, but says they are worth it. Decker says it's like he went in and the doctor flipped a switch, and he came out cured.

Delores McQueen had 20 treatments, and they didn't work. Her memory loss is very typical of ECT patients: forgetting the names of children and forgetting past life events. Her doctors said the memory loss was from depression. But like so many others, she didn't have severe memory loss before the ECT.

32-year-old Roberto Ardizzone died shortly after his ECT treatment after going into shock on the table. His brother says that ECT is the treatment saved for worthless people.