One Flew Over Harvard Med School

by Fred Gardner, January 4, 2017

The internet cannot convey how big the New York Times played the story headlined "Beneficiary of Electroshock Therapy Emerges as its Leading Evangelist" in the January 1 print edition. The top half of the page was a color photo captioned "Kitty Dukakis and her husband Michael, a former governor of Massachusetts, last month with a therapy support group at their home in Brookline, Mass."

Kitty Dukakis is the smiling face of ECT ("Electroconvulsive Therapy"), but who is really pushing it? Reporter Kathleen Seelye informs us "Mrs. Dukakis receives her maintenance therapy at McLean Hospital in suburban Boston, one of the world's largest and most renowned psychiatric hospitals. McLean does about 10,000 such treatments a year, up from 2,000 treatments in 1999… Each patient generally receives eight to 20 treatments."

Seelye reports that ECT is much improved since the days of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." She writes, "In the old days, patients convulsed during therapy sessions, sometimes so violently that they broke their bones or teeth. Today, with anesthesia and muscle relaxants, such reactions are rare."

Now you can have kinder, gentler seizures.

“'ECT is the single most efficacious treatment that we have and the treatment of choice if you absolutely had to get someone out of a severe depression within a day or two,' said Steven D. Hollon, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, who has studied the treatment of depression.

"But, he added, electroconvulsive therapy can potentially cause serious side effects, most notably long-term memory problems, some of which are temporary. Even patients whose depression goes into remission almost always need maintenance treatment, with ECT, antidepressants or both.

"A National Institute of Mental Health study conducted in 2014 and released this year found that new ECT techniques designed to better protect memory, in combination with antidepressants, fully relieved symptoms in 61 percent of severely depressed elderly patients; some were still well six months later. (Of the others, 28 percent dropped out and 10 percent did not improve.)

The Times ran a photo of Kitty Dukakis's bow-tie-wearing psychiatrist, Charles Welch, holding two big electrodes to his temples like "What, me worry?"

Seelye quotes Welch: "Depression is a chronic and recurring illness that requires good lifetime management." Real meaning: "Keep coming back to get zapped, everybody, I'm setting up trust funds for my grandchildren."

McLean Hospital —which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School— also does a lucrative business in treating people afflicted with "Cannabis Use Disorder." I wonder if the brilliant shrinks ever propose ECT for CUD?

Below the jump of the Times's paean to Electroconvulsion is a news story from the Associated Press headlined, "Massachusetts Delays Sales of Recreational Marijuana." A ballot initiative passed by voters in November legalized use for adults over 21 and would have permitted dispensaries to sell the herb in January 2018; but Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and some Democrats in the legislature claimed to need more time to "thoroughly prepare." So on December 27 they passed a bill pushing implementation back six months — "without a public hearing," the AP noted, "and without debate during informal sessions in both chambers. Only a handful of lawmakers were present."

Fake Science

Syngenta, the agrochemical giant, wants the honeybee die-off blamed on the varroa mite instead of on their pesticides. In 2012 an English bee expert named James Cresswell accepted funding from Syngenta (under heavy pressure from his employer, the University of Exeter). When his findings tended to exonerate the varroa mite, Syngenta leaned on him to revise his study. This low-key example is the hook provided by NY Times reporter Danny Hakim into a January 2 feature about the influence of corporate funding on scientific research.

Hakim writes:

"Scientists who cross agrochemical companies can find themselves at odds with the industry for years. One such scientist is Angelika Hilbeck, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The industry has long since challenged her research, and she has been outspoken in challenging them back.

"Going back to the 1990s, her research has found that genetically modified corn — intended to kill bugs that eat the plant — could harm beneficial insects as well. Back then, Syngenta had not yet been formed, but she said one of its predecessor companies, Ciba-Geigy, tried to stifle her research by citing a confidentiality agreement signed by her employer then, a Swiss government research center called Agroscope.

"Confidentiality agreements have become routine. The United States Department of Agriculture turned over 43 confidentiality agreements reached with Syngenta, Bayer and Monsanto since the beginning of 2010 after a Freedom of Information Act request. Agroscope turned over an additional five with Swiss agrochemical companies.

"Many of the agreements highlight how regulators are often more like collaborators than watchdogs, exploring joint research and patent deals that they agree to keep secret. One agreement between the U.S.D.A. and Syngenta, which came with a five-year nondisclosure term, covered things including 'research and development activities,' 'manufacturing processes' and 'financial and marketing information related to crop protection and seed technologies.' In another agreement, a government scientist was barred even from disclosing sensitive information she heard at a symposium run by Monsanto.

"The Agriculture Department, in a statement, said that without such agreements and partnerships, 'many technological solutions would not make it to the public,' adding that research findings were released 'objectively without inappropriate influence from internal or external partners’."

14 Responses to One Flew Over Harvard Med School

  1. Jeff Costello Reply

    January 4, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Increase in shock treatments? It is truly the Age of Trump.

    • Carole Reply

      January 5, 2017 at 8:20 am

      Nothing to do with Trump..this has been happening for more than a decade. .ever since they changed the definition of”mental illness” to widen the net for involuntary treatment

  2. sohumlily Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 4:24 am

    It’s not only still happening, it’s compulsory or used as ‘punishment’ for non cooperation when involuntarily committed.

    No, unlike BM’s mockery of a previous comment I made about our ‘modern’ mental health system, it hasn’t changed all that much from Ken Kesey’s depiction.

    Rep. Tim Murphy’s mental heath bill finally passed both houses in Dec. Added as a rider to something or another funding bill and (brain damage–literally–thanks psych meds!!) renamed the ’21st Cures Act’ (the irony) making forced treatment/outpatient treatment easier, taking away HIPPA protections for patients, taking away money from ‘community mental health care’ local control, doing away with alternative residential treatment (soteria, wrap). It’s truly Orwellian. For those of you clamoring for inpatient treatment you are missing the historical context of psychiatry as a tool of oppression and control. And it sure takes the pressure off the gun lobby. A scapegoat for the mass shootings becoming so prevalent in our ‘society’. A gift to big pharma, who btw, has the biggest lobby in DC bar none.

    All the ‘violence’, in almost all cases, caused by the ‘mentally ill’ were individuals who had just started psych meds or who had just discontinued them. There is no such thing as a ‘chemical imbalance’, but the drugs sure facilitate one.

    For more info https://www.madinamerica.com

    • Harvey Reading Reply

      January 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Reminds me of the passage in Birdy, by William Wharton, where the military witch doctor-psychiatrist berates the title character for his ‘anti-authoritarianism’. Alexander Cockburn wrote some informative articles about witch-doctory and their DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) that were quite good. I suspect they could be found with a search at the Counterpunch web site.

      • Fred Gardner Reply

        January 5, 2017 at 4:27 pm

        Last time I looked they were trying to add something like “Oppositional Defiance Disorder.” They may have.

  3. Carole Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 8:17 am

    ECT is the best they can do and very very often given without consent? Give me a break. .oh..and if none of you hv researched it. .they are trying to bring back lobotomies. .with a new”softer” term..psychosurgery..

    • Harvey Reading Reply

      January 5, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Won’t be long before independent thinking will be listed as an ailment in their DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual).

  4. sohumlily Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Follow the link.

    It *is* happening.

    When was the last time you were in a psych facility, Carole?

    right

  5. sohumlily Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    comment today on the Mad in America site from an article about Carry Fisher, poster girl for ‘bipolar’s death:

    deeeo42 January 5, 2017 at 4:19 pm
    Absolutely AA – in fact please do. Thanks for your concerns but the stroke was the least of my problems – the stress problems of being forced to have the treatment, the loss of my skills as an artist and writer which destroyed my livliehood, and most of all, the loss of my memories of my children were all far worse. But because I had what is known in legal circles as a `high cognitive reserve’ I came out reasonably okay. That means that I started at a high level of functioning so while my loss of capacity was significant I remain relatively competent. If I had been functioning at an average level, as of course most people are, the deficits from the brain injury may have reduced me to being intellectually and cognitively handicapped. These are the people who are silent, not the Carrie Fishers, or the Kitty Dukakis’s, but the vast numbers of severely handicapped people who are the hidden victims of this scourge. They are sitting in rooms, apathetic, without volition, insight, emotions or hope. No dreams, no future, no past.
    While Carrie and Kitty extoll the virtues of ECT here are a few celebs who weren’t quite so happy about it:
    Ernest Hemingway – blew his brains out after ECT destroyed his memory, his `capital’ – `it was a great treatment but we lost the patient’.
    Judy Garland – “I couldn’t learn anything. I couldn’t retain anything; I was just up there making strange noises. Here I was in the middle of a million-dollar property, with a million-dollar wardrobe, with a million eyes on me, and I was in a complete daze. I knew it, and everyone around me knew it.” The studio soon suspended her from the film.
    Gene Tierney – “Pieces of my life just disappeared…[like] what Eve felt, having been created full grown out of somebody’s rib, born without a history. That is exactly how I felt.
”
    Sylvia Plath – “she really hated to go…sometimes Aurelia [her mother] had to force her to go…glimpse after a treatment…she was uncharacteristically lifeless…it was almost as if the life had been sucked out of her”. (Mother’s friend.)
    Vivien Leigh – “She was not, now that she had been given the treatment, the same girl I had fallen in love with.” (Lawrence Olivier, husband)
    Antonin Arnaud (poet) – “Anyone who has gone through the electric shock… never again rises out of its darkness and his life has been lowered a notch.”
    Janet Frame (author) – I dreamed waking and sleeping dreams more terrible than any I dreamed before – [if] only I had been able to talk about my terror…
    Emil Post (mathematician) – died of heart attack at 57 following ECT –
    The claim that ECT is better now is rubbish. There have been NO new developments for over 40 years. It is cosmetically easier to watch because the body is paralysed by drugs (introduced 1950s and which has its own extra risks) but the seizure in the brain is still the fiercest seizure known in all of medicine, and the power used today is 4 times greater for 8 times as long. In fact with “modern ECT”, a group of ECT anaesthetists (who make as much as $30,000 a week), found that 1:6 ECT patients suffered a life threatening complication during the treatment. SAFER than childbirth? Don’t be ridiculous!

    People who are treated with psychiatric drugs for their ‘mental illness’ die on average 25 years sooner than the general population, and that’s not taking into account ECT ‘treatments’.

    Barbaric.

    • BB Grace Reply

      January 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      Your posts inspired me to see if I could find a vid I saw years ago by Natural News, sohumlily. It appears there were many vids being produced from 2007 – 2013, and then it goes to a trickle into commercials filling up the remaining years. I found the vid, which was produced in 2013, with a good series of debates on the left of YouTube, which research/ cloud is not as easy as it was finding since information as sources are restricted and some things won’t post because of “fake news” censorship. The name of the YouTube is:

      “Psychiatric Drugs and American Gun Violence”
      NRUN65

      “Published on Feb 14, 2013

      “Several video segments suggesting that SSRI antidepressant drugs contribute to, or even cause, violent behavior. Especially interesting is the list of recent school shooters who were on these drugs during their violent outbursts, beginning at 7:30 in the video.

      “Peter Breggin, M.D., author of “Medication Madness” speaks about the link between psychiatric drugs and gun violence, especially among the young.

      “Citizens Commission on Human Rights International:
      “It is no secret that prescription drugs, notably antidepressants, can make psychiatric patients worse, not better and even precipitate violence. SSRI antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are so linked to violence, they were given the FDA’s highest warning in 2004, a black box, for the suicidal risks they can create in young adults.
      According to published reports, the gunmen involved in the Columbine High School, Red Lake reservation, Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech mass shootings were under the influence of psychiatric drugs or withdrawing from such drugs. At least 5,000 other news stories, including school shootings, link psychiatric drugs to violent crime on the web site SSRI Stories.
      Three men in their 70′s and 80′s attack their wives with hammers while under the influence of psychiatric drugs say news reports on the site. A 54-year-old respiratory patient with a breathing tube and an oxygen tank and no previous criminal record holds up a bank. An enraged man in Australia chases his mailman and threats to cut his throat . . . for bringing him junk mail. A 58-year-old Amarillo man with no criminal history tries to abduct three people and an Oklahoma woman accepts a cup of tea from an elderly nurse she’s just met–and kills her.
      “The kind of energy, rage and insanity seen in a lot of crimes today was not seen before SSRIs appeared,” said Rosie Meysenburg, who co-founded SSRI Stories, in an interview shortly before her death this year.” [http://www.cchrint.org/2012/12/27/pre…]

      “Natural News:
      “Do The Math: Medications Are Far More Deadly Than Guns – Medications kill roughly 100,000 Americans each year according to statistics. The actual number is either 98,000 or 106,000 depending on which study you believe.”

  6. Jim Updegraff Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    My concern is not over treatments for depression but with GMO and the use of agreements and partnerships that have a self interest on the review boards.

  7. Harvey Reading Reply

    January 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    This is what happens when witch doctors are empowered.

  8. Deirdre Oliver Reply

    January 8, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Let’s look at these claims about yet another PR press release for ECT – The APA has a lot of money and pays high fees to various major PR companies: Here goes…
    “The treatment has come a long way since it was depicted as a barbaric and terrifying tool for subduing patients in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” (They ALWAYS trot this out and we’re all getting a bit tired of it – please try something else guys.)
    There are always a group of claims made that resurface in almost every article on ECT – that Modern ECT is a lot different from One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I.E. that:
    1. It now has anaesthesia and paralysing drugs to prevent harm form the massive convulsion.
    2. It uses far less electricity
    3. It is ultra brief
    4. The electrodes are placed to avoid damage.
    5. That 80% of people benefit from it.
    6. Its method of operation is not really known.
    BUT:
    1. Anaesthesia and paralysing drugs were introduced 60 years ago, in the early 1950s to prevent fractures. It was NOT to reduce brain damage which was at the time the aim of ECT.
    2. Electricity: Until approximately 1990, 24 years ago, ECT used 100-150 volts for 1 second- it now uses up to 450 volts for 8 seconds.
    3. Brief Pulse ECT was first used 70 years ago in 1946. Ultra brief Pulse ECT was used in the 1960s – 50 years ago. It does NOT refer to the ECT treatment, it is the width of the Square Wave Pulse of which there are 140 per second for an average 8 seconds = well over 1000 ultra brief electrical pulses firing through the brain per single treatment.
    4. Electrodes: The first manipulation of electrode placement was 74 years ago in 1942. One sided electrodes were in common use in 1970, 46 years ago. Today most ECT use remains bilateral exactly as seen in the movie.
    5. 80% success rate: There is no reliable evidence that more than 40% of ECT recipients, and often far less that that, get any positive effects at all and these effects are not likely to extend beyond a few weeks. There is also NO evidence that real ECT has any benefit over placebo ECT beyond the acute injury phase.
    6. Unknown action: Saying this confers an almost miraculous effect, (not unintentionally either.) The truth is far more mundane. The `improvements’ seen in the under 50% of people who have a positive response, are the symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury. The acute symptoms of concussion can include a mild euphoria (also a short-lived side effect of seizures), known in neurology as “concussion euphoria” (also short-lived), apathy, memory loss, vagueness and confusion and a lack of initiative where the person agrees with whatever is suggested to them. They may also suffer from anosognosia as a result of injury to the brain where the person is unaware of their deficits.
    No matter how often these issues are glossed over by the PR handouts that psychiatrists commonly distribute there are some FACTS that cannot be disguised.
    First: The neurological definition of a Traumatic Brain Injury is:
    1. A TBI occurs when a force is applied to the head that causes a disruption in normal brain function –
    2. ECT applies an electrical force to the head that causes a grandma seizure and a coma, both serious disruptions to normal brain function –
    3. Therefore, ECT causes a TBI.
    The second major factor is how lucrative ECT is. A Psychiatrist performing ECT can make $30,000 a week, and even small hospitals regularly make over $20 million a year just from ECT.
    I suggest the readers of this article check out some of the over 2000 reports from people whose lives have been destroyed by ECT. For every Kitty Dukakis and Carrie Fisher there are 10 who didn’t come out well:

    I’m told ECT is given to cure suicidal tendencies, which I find very peculiar, because before ECT I was never suicidal,

    JUDY GARLAND, 2000.I couldn’t learn anything. I couldn’t retain anything;
    I would much rather have lost a limb or 2 than to have lost my memory — my “self.”,
    I try but I just can’t recreate who I am.
    The memories of our past give us an understanding of where we fit in the world. I have experienced more than a “cognitive deficit.
    It isn’t fun to sit and listen while my children reminisce about their growing up years, while I am unable to participate in the conversation.
    I was not relieved of depression. I was not told that memory loss would be permanant. It has disabled my life
    Damage is unquestionable…Degrading, hostile and barbaric.
    It ruined my marriage, my life…The effects of the “treatment” made me suicidal.
    When I awoke after each “treatment” I felt completely broken, like a walking zombie.
    Some patients had had obscene numbers of ECTs. It was probably just a coincidence that each treatment earned the hospital a lot of money and that the psychiatrists who brought in the most money gained significant perks. (Nurse)
    347 patients received the currently available methods of electro shock, including the supposedly most benign forms and confirmed that electro shock causes permanent brain damage and dysfunction. 2007 “Modern ECT”.

  9. Deirdre Oliver Reply

    January 8, 2017 at 12:53 am

    May I send another small review: Re the reclassification of the machines issue:
    Dr. Charles Kellner, a (highly voluble ECT proponent) professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and chief of the ECT service at Mount Sinai Hospital, says, ““Its use for these indications {schizophrenia, catatonia & mania) is widespread, even ubiquitous, and to deny the extensive evidence in support of that is indefensible,” Dr Kellner frequently states that hundreds of studies support his claims- unfortunately searches by highly respected groups such as the UK NICE ECT review in 2003 found only FOUR poor quality studies, NONE of which supported ECT’s use in schizophrenia. In fact there has never been a shred of evidence that ECT has any value whatsoever in the treatment of schizophrenia. and it is not listed as useful for this in Europe, the UK or Ireland. Catatonia is so rare that many psych professionals have never seen it, and ECT often CAUSES mania.
    Then, of course Dr Kellner was once paid to promote ECT by the manufacturers of the machines and now runs the CORE research program at Duke University that solicits $millions in grant money, and admitted in January 2015 that ECT causes structural damage to the brain. This apparently causes Dr Kellner no concerns.

    “All of us sighed a big sigh of relief,” said Dr. Stephen Seiner,[re the possible reclassification of ECT machines which has yet to be passed] director of the psychiatric neurotherapeutics program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., which performed 10,000 ECT treatments last year — the most in the US. “It’s an important message to the medical community that ECT is safe.” Well might Dr Steiner breath a sigh of relief, as his stake is the $82 MILLION or more that ECT brings in to his hospital every year. His concern over his brain damaged patients doesn’t appear to give him any pain whatever.
    This whole push has been to circumvent the requirement that all devices classified as ECT is, as high risk, undergo trials to prove they don’t cause harm. ECT proponents are well aware that forcing the manufacturers to conduct proper trials will get ECT banned, so it’s better to get the rules changed instead. ECT is VERY valuable to a few VERY powerful groups.
    When the going claim from psychiatry that ECT is the “gold standard” for treating depression outright lies will be what the FDA listens to. The usual performance will ensue, denial, ignoring unwelcome evidence, distortions, fake studies, you name it and ECT will become, for the first time in its long destructive career, a benign, universal treatment for the masses.
    Remember this is a group of people who took a statement that ECT had NO impact on suicide and said brazenly that it DID!
    They took a study that said it was no better than fake ECT, changed the numbers, put in a lot of stuff that was totally unrelated to ECT, and said it DID!
    Dishonesty is the name of the game here. Will the public buy it?
    [If] “…the agency (FDA) will require manufacturers of ECT machines to launch clinical trials for these indications. It’s widely expected they will decline to do so because of the cost.” The $5 BILLION ECT industry somehow doesn’t have sufficient funds to hold clinical trials to test whether their product is dangerous or not? Trials that have NEVER been done. Can you imagine a manufacturer of a cardiac device claiming that it was too expensive to test that their product might cause harm? And getting away with it?
    [They will still be able to] …“provide ECT “off label” to patients with mania, schizophrenia, catatonia, or other conditions.” Interestingly there is NOT a shred of evidence now or ever that ECT has any value whatsoever in the treatment of schizophrenia. The UK NICE ECT review in 2003 specifically stated this and recommended it not be used for this purpose. It is not listed as useful for this in Europe, the UK or Ireland.
    [But} “…insurance companies may refuse to pay. And physicians may worry about the potential for malpractice lawsuits if anything goes wrong.” Since every recipient of ECT suffers permanent brain injury to some degree, when one in every six experiences a life threatening complication during the treatment, one in every 200 over 65,, and one in 600 on average will die often within days or weeks, 25% of over 80s will not make it through a year compared with only 2% of their peers, and when suicide is 5% more likely after ECT compared with similar patients who have NOT had ECT, perhaps insurance companies might do well to reassess the risks. Also, if as the psychiatrists say, ECT is always going to be ongoing because it doesn’t “work” for most, insurance companies might also query the ongoing and extraordinary costs involved.
    Sadly, because the most severely brain damaged, as, I suggest, in Kitty Dukakis’ and Carrie Fisher’s case, are frequently unaware of just how badly they have been affected, most victims they are unlikely to to seek reparation. Also, since intellectual damage reduces many to a handicapped level of functioning, they too are unlikely to sue. A further complication for litigation is that families are often pleased that their family member is subdued , as Mrs Dukakis appears to be, almost to the point of dementia. An early psychiatrist said of ECT that “it didn’t do much for the patients but it kept the staff and families happy.”

    “Labeling ECT “high risk” for conditions other than depression will have a “chilling effect” on the therapy for thousands of terribly ill patients, most of whom have exhausted all other options, said Dr. William McDonald, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University.”
    The only available “other options” offered by psychiatry today are the neuroleptic drugs that a) have very limited effectiveness, b) are highly toxic & c) often have the paradoxical effect of CAUSING the condition they purport to treat. That is, the TREATMENT has caused the condition to become untreatable. What is “chilling” is the belief that 450 volts pulsing through someone’s brain for 8 seconds can be seen as “treatment” by doctors who are sworn to “first do no harm”

    Re 70 year old Kate MacDonald, “If someone said to me, ‘Kate, you’re [either] going to lose a whole bunch of memories or be depressed the way I was,’” she said, “I would say, ‘Take the memories.’” Perhaps, luckily for her she didn’t lose the memories of her children, her husband and family, her education, job skills, and friends. Perhaps she didn’t lose, as so many do, her emotions, her ability to find her way about, her ability to read, play a musical instrument, create art or literature.
    That “She’s (Kate MacDonald) convinced ECT saved her life.” This is called spellbinding and is more an example of brain injury and possibly brain washing, than reality. Many psychiatrists have never prescribed ECT in long and distinguished careers, many are extremely high profile and quite outspoken, Ivor Browne Emeritus Professor , Pat Bracken, (Ireland), Bob Johnson Highly distinguished forensic psychiatrist (UK), Peter Breggin (USA), Niall McLaren (Australia) plus the approx 70% of everyday psychiatrists worldwide, who also never prescribe it. It seems fair to suggest that if their patients don’t need it, why do those of the highly voluble, very wealthy hospital doctors like Charles Kellner with clear vested interests do so? $$$$MILLIONS of reasons!

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