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Shock therapy should be consigned to past

According to statistics, the psychiatric habit of passing electricity through a person's brain is on the rise. Known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), it has all the marks of physical torture methods that might instead belong in the armoury of a KGB interrogator, rather than the inventory of a medical practitioner.

In order to garner public support, ECT has been cleverly cloaked in medical legitimacy: the hospital setting, white-coated assistants, anaesthetics, muscle-paralysing drugs and sophisticated looking equipment.

These things may give the witness the idea that something therapeutic is going on. All very medical and, perhaps, convincing.

But in spite of these trappings, the brutality of ECT - also known as 'shock treatment' - verifies that psychiatry has not advanced beyond the cruelty and barbarism of its earliest treatments. Most importantly, nothing has changed for the victim being shocked.

Few are aware that a Rome slaughterhouse inspired this so-called 'scientific' procedure. In 1938, psychiatrist Ugo Cerletti observed butchers incapacitating pigs with electric shocks to render them more docile prior to slitting their throats.

Inspired, Cerletti conducted further experiments on the pigs, finally concluding: "These clear proofs caused all my doubts to vanish and, without more ado, I gave instructions in the clinic to undertake, next day, the experiment upon man".

It may sound crude, but it is a fact: the shock treatment procedure itself is no more scientific, or therapeutic, than being hit over the head with a cricket bat.

Just as whipping, leeching and flogging are unlawful, this 'treatment' should be prohibited or prosecuted for the criminal assault that it is.

B DANIELS

Citizens Commission on Human Rights

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