Duty to Warn

new-logo25kohlsGary G. Kohls, MD

In my practice of holistic mental health care, I encountered a number of unfortunate patients that had had one or more series of electro-convulsant (shock) therapy (ECT) , where a series of sub-lethal electrical shocks are administered directly to one or both hemispheres of the brain.

To be regarded as “therapeutic”, enough electricity in this still very controversial procedure (often utilizing up to 400 volts) has to be given to cause a grand mal seizure, which inevitably results in post-seizure coma. Shock to the brain commonly results in memory loss (both short-term and long-term) and the loss of cognitive abilities (both short-term and long-term).

General anesthesia plus intravenous sedatives are also administered in order to eliminate any memory of the otherwise painful procedure and also to relax muscles (thus minimizing muscle damage and the possibility of fractured bones during the often violent seizure). Both drugs are brain-altering and potentially brain-damaging but are routinely given. The cocktail of futile and potentially neurotoxic psychiatric drugs that may even have caused chemical brain damage are typically continued for fear of causing serious withdrawal syndromes if they were to be stopped.

Labor costs account for much of the $500 – $1,000 cost for each ECT session, some or most of which is usually borne by health insurance companies. Most ECT is given in a series of 6 – 12 sessions, usually three times per week for 2 – 4 weeks. Besides the attending psychiatrist and an anesthetist or anesthesiologist, a number of other psychiatric staff, including psychiatric nurses, are present as assistants.

In the ECT-treated patients that came to my clinic, the memory loss and cognitive disabilities (which their psychiatrists had reassured them would be temporary) had actually become permanent, even years after the shock “treatments”. Permanent social security disability status was common, as was difficulty in functioning on the job. (A classic example of one of the many unintended consequence of ECT from history is Ernest Hemingway, who, after complaining of his severe loss of cognition and memory (his main tools as a writer), committed suicide shortly after the second of his two series of ECTs he had received at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.)

Every one of my ECT patients had also been treated – usually for years – with high doses of a multitude of powerful, brain-altering (even brain-damaging and dementia-inducing) psychiatric drugs in a bewildering array of guess-work cocktail combinations that failed the patient or made her worse. (It is important to note that no combination of two or more psychiatric drugs has ever been thoroughly tested, short-term or long-term, for safety or efficacy – even in the experimental animal lab. Indeed, most of the trial-and-error psychiatric drug combos that my ECT patients had been given were capable of (according to the Physician’s Desk Reference [PDR]) actually causing worsening depression, lethargy and/or suicidality. So-called “treatment-resistant” depression (drug “poop-out”, drug failure or drug intoxication) and suicidality are reasons commonly given for recommending ECT.

Given the multitude of exposes in the recent media concerning the high incidence of traumatic brain injuries in Iraq War veterans and NFL football players, it is important to point out that  autopsy studies that have been done on patients who died following ECT show findings very similar to what is found in the autopsies done on traumatic brain injury cases and vaccine brain injuries, namely, cerebral hemorrhages (abnormal bleeding), edema (excessive accumulation of fluid), cortical atrophy (shrinkage of the cerebral cortex), fibrosis (thickening and scarring), gliosis (growth of abnormal tissue) and partially destroyed brain tissue. Consult the bibliography below for proof.

ECT: Another Industry That is Too Big to Fail or Criticize?