Doctors of Deception: What They Don't Want You to Know about Shock Treatment

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Shock treatment. They say it's safe now; new and improved. They say it can't damage your brain or cause permanent memory loss.But who are they and why should you believe them? Doctors of Deception is the first history of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or shock treatment, to consider the controversial procedure in a social, legal, financial, medical, and moral context. Through the investigation of court records, medical research, FDA archives, and other primary sources, Linda Andre shows that claims of safety ...

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Doctors of Deception: What They Don't Want You to Know about Shock Treatment

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Shock treatment. They say it's safe now; new and improved. They say it can't damage your brain or cause permanent memory loss.But who are they and why should you believe them? Doctors of Deception is the first history of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), or shock treatment, to consider the controversial procedure in a social, legal, financial, medical, and moral context. Through the investigation of court records, medical research, FDA archives, and other primary sources, Linda Andre shows that claims of safety and efficacy made by doctors who promote and profit from ECT are not supported by science or evidence. She reveals how the shock industry and organized psychiatry abused public trust and waged a masterful, multi-decade public relations campaign to improve ECT's image, deceiving the media, the government, and the public about its risks while exploiting negative stereotypes of mental patients to silence survivors.The book documents the struggles of these former patients and their allies who have worked for over thirty years to inform others about the dangers of ECT, and includes vivid firsthand accounts of its permanent adverse effects on memory and cognition. Meticulously researched, Doctors of Deception builds a solid case that ECT can never be justified scientifically, medically, or morally.

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Editorial Reviews


"This superb study documents a development that is an ongoing controversy in the field of psychiatry: electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and the appropriateness of using it to treat a host of conditions. Weaving her own, often poignant, experiences with ECT into the narrative, Andre contends that ECT proponents/practitioners undercut informed consent through systemic deceit, including failure to reveal negative consequences. The audience for this excellent resource should include those who make mental health policy. Highly recommended."

International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine

"This book is brilliant analysis. It is successful on many levels, including its most important task: presenting an overview of the history, safety and efficacy of electro-convulsive therapy. The book is also a masterpiece of scientific writing. Through her extensive personal and professional research, Andre explained things I had already known about ECT, but with additional clinical facts and exceptional insight. She detailed the people and places that have formed the basis for the historical foundations of ECT at the same time that she described the politics and organizations that have continued to promote ECT as a safe and effective modality."

— Stefan Kruszewski MD

Social History of Medicine

"Andre provides a useful contrast to the claims made in Edward Shorter and David Healy's recent paean to ECT and the men who were instrumental in its development, and offers a potentially devastating critique of both ECT and the modern American psychiatric profession."

Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal

"Doctors of Deception is a very interesting read, offers a detailed history of ECT's use, and immersion into one of psychology's oldest debates."

The Journal of Mind and Behavior

"Author and activist Linda Andre has written a marvelously lucid and a

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813544410
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 2/4/2009
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 815,038
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Andre is a writer, activist, and the director of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry. Since receiving ECT in the early 1980s, she has been an advocate for the human and civil rights of psychiatrically labelled people, particularly the right to truthful informed consent. She has been interviewed by numerous publications and media such as 20/20, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

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Table of Contents

Notes on Terminology

1 The Trouble with Time 1

2 Eugenic Conceptions I: Ticking Time Bombs 13

3 Eugenic Conceptions II: Useless Eaters 28

4 A Little Brain Pathology 44

5 Informed Consent and the Dawn of the Public Relations Era 67

6 The American Psychiatric Association Task Force 86

7 The Making of an American Activist 107

8 The ECT Industry Cows the Media 127

9 Long Strange Trip: ECT at the Food and Drug Administration 138

10 The Committee for Truth in Psychiatry 156

11 Anecdote or Evidence? 170

12 Shaming Science 189

13 The Lie That Won t Die 212

14 Erasing History 231

15 The Triumph of Public Relations over Science 253

16 Should ECT Be Banned? The Moral Context 267

17 Where Do We Go from Here? 287

Epilogue 302

App Letters from FDA Docket No. 82P-0316 306

Notes 316

Resources 349

Index 351

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 29, 2009

    An Excellent Work of Investigative Reporting by a Shock Treatment Survivor reviewed by RonThompson

    Linda Andre has spent over 20 years trying to alert the public to the inevitable harm done by the psychiatric treatment known as
    'electroconvulsive therapy', after she was subjected to 'shock' in her
    mid-20's without having been given any warning about the life-changing memory loss and decreased cognitive function she, like all shock patients, would inevitably endure.
    Now she's written DOCTORS OF DECEPTION: What They Don't Want You to Know About Shock Treatment (2009). Unlike other books written by former patients of psychiatry, her book is relatively short on personal story and long on scholarship about the history of shock since it's appearance in 1938.
    A startling early comment is that the dangers of shock treatment were far better recognized in the 1940's than now. Working as an unpaid investigative reporter, because the working press has failed the Public on this issue, Andre discusses two main reasons 'shock' has retained an undeserved credibility.
    First, she makes a strong case that eugenical thinking, the pseudo-scientific idea that certain races or categories of people are simply inferior to others - which had a dismayingly wide vogue early in the 20th century - never really went away regarding mental patients.
    Second, Andre dissects in great detail how the Shock industry, when it came under criticism in the 1960's during that period of general cultural upheaval, decided to adopt a public relations strategy rather than a scientific strategy to meet these attacks. That is, instead of doing actual research on the outcomes of the process of sending electricity through human brains, the shock doctors and manufacturers of shock machines - who over the years increasingly became the same people -decided on a no-holds barred public relations campaign that is pro-shock and anti-every critic, with especially no-holds-barred counterattacks on former patient critics.
    Along the way, she tells the story of Marilyn Rice, a highly placed government economist who lost her professional working knowledge as a result of shock and then became the first major ex-patient activist against this particular psychiatric mistreatment, and eventually mentor to her successor, Linda Andre.
    The final contribution of Andre's book is a discussion whether ect (shock) should be banned, and what the moral context of that debate should be. In this chapter she charges there is an unpleasant hidden moral agenda concerning the use of shock that lies beneath the overt or publicly professed reasons for the treatment. In these comments she returns to the thesis of covert eugenical thinking mentioned earlier.
    Last, this book seems particularly relevant for those in the Washington and New York City area - because, although there are some very good stories in regional papers around the country about the
    mounting concerns of 'biological' psychiatry , and shock treatment in
    particular, the Washington Post and New York Times, for reasons not entirely clear, have been peculiarly neglectful and incompetent in covering biological psychiatry.
    This means our national political leadership and those in our cultural capital are woefully uninformed, at least in the papers they're most apt to read, about an issue much of the rest of the country is increasingly concerned about.
    Linda Andre, a well-known speaker on the issues surrounding shock
    for many years, has written a book that deserves wide attention.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Survivor Confronts Modern Day Mengeles.

    Linda Andre had been blessed. With an I. Q. measured at 156, a powerful work ethic, a drive to succeed, a musician's ear and artist's eye, she sailed through her academic career to the heights of scholarship and was beginning a brilliant career as a writer and photographer when, at 25, the assault happened, like a horrific mugging and beating. Permanently brain damaged by the assault, her I. Q. had been chopped down to 118. Gone also was her gift for photography. Perhaps worse of all was the complete erasure of five years of her memory, one-fifth of her lifetime, including all her prestigious academic training, as if she'd never lived those lost years.
    Any other mugging would have thrown the perpetrators into jail for years and cost them millions in civil penalties. But this was a legal mugging. And the perpetrators even made $20,000 for destroying much of Ms. Andre's life. They were, after all, licensed doctors of medicine and, instead of using a baseball bat on her head (which would have been kinder), they sent up to 200 volts of electricity into her brain with their electro convulsive "therapy" machine.
    Why would doctors, of all people, inflict such physical and emotional harm to another, even killing many? Do they, like Joseph Mengele, Auchwitz's Angel of Death, place profit and a fatally twisted vision of science ahead of human life? Ms. Andre, having no memory of the events leading up to her assault, can only go by what other people have told her and the existing documentation. So she spends most of her affecting and exhaustively researched book looking for the answer then joining and later becoming a leading voice in the struggle against ECT machines and other instruments of this medical holocaust which claims thousands of victims each year, robbing them of their day-to-day abilities to function and up to decades of memory if not their lives.
    Here Ms. Andre documents the countless efforts to ask the questions and tell the mental patient's stories through various media only to learn that even the most trusted outlets, suckered into the shock industry's public relations machine, have their own visions of what the answers are, regardless of the facts put in front of them. Few readers of this book will be able to sit complacently in front of their TVs afterwards, just as none of us should ever sheepishly allow any "expert" with certain conflicts of interest to lead us to ruin.
    It is also a pleasure to read the facts behind ECT rather than the gushing accolades of Carrie Fisher (who receives regular shocks and has lost, so far, 4 months of her life-memories) and of Kitty Dukakas (who, along with lost memories, must constantly write notes to herself before her damaged short-term memory loses the information).
    My deepest hope is that medical school students will read Ms. Andre's book, take it to heart and dare to ask those questions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 2, 2013

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    Posted March 30, 2009

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