Electroshock treatment (ECT) was developed in 1938 at a time that lobotomy and insulin coma therapy were already in use. Pioneer advocates of ECT openly admitted that it caused irreversible brain damage. In 1979 Dr. Breggin published the first medical book critical of ECT, Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling Effects (New York: Springer Publishing Company). Dr. Breggin has advocated the banning of ECT, but it continues to be used extensively in most psychiatric facilities. In 1985 Dr. Breggin presented as the scientific expert on the brain-damaging effects of the treatment at the NIH Consensus Development Conference on ECT. In 2005 he was the medical expert in the first-ever malpractice victory against a doctor who referred his patient for ECT.
The best source of up-to-date information on ECT memory loss and brain damage can be found in a chapter in Dr. Breggin’s book Brain-Disabling Treatments in Psychiatry (2008).
Electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) is increasingly used in North America and there are attempts to further its use world-wide. However, most controlled studies of efficacy in depression indicate the treatment is no better than placebo, with no positive effect on the rate of suicide. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine 11 (1998) 5-40.
Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Comentary in Mental Health, March 1992.
Dr. Breggin reviews and comments upon the 1990 Task Force Report of the American Psychiatric Association, "The Practice of Electroconvulsive Therapy: Recommendations for Treatment, Training, and Privileging."