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Freedom Magazine, published by the Church of Scientology

Annihilation Therapy

Electric shock 'treatment'

It looks
high tech,
but it’s very
low tech

lectric shock “treatment” was conceived in a Roman slaughterhouse in 1938 when psychiatrist Ugo Cerletti noticed that pigs could easily be shocked into epileptic convulsions and unconsciousness.

     Working on a flawed hypothesis from fellow psychiatrist Ladislaw von Meduna — which held that insanity and epilepsy could not occupy the same brain at the same time — Cerletti sought to induce epileptic convulsions in his psychiatric patients.

     Although Cerletti later renounced his creation — observing, “When I saw the patient’s reaction, I thought to myself: This ought to be abolished!” — the practice spread throughout Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi psychiatrists in Germany picked up the method. By 1940, it was being used in other nations, including the United States, even though it was determined that when electric shock induced bone-breaking convulsions it also caused irreversible brain damage.

     Statistics from the early days are startling: 20 percent of patients had compression fractures of the vertebrae. Psychiatrists nevertheless exploited shock to destroy individual personality. In 1942, Lucini Bini, a colleague of Cerletti’s, suggested repetitive use of electric shock daily for certain patients, calling his procedure “annihilation therapy” — a more accurate description of shock than many euphemisms applied to it.

     A study of medical reports from the 1980s and 1990s published in 1995 revealed that three of 372 (or 1 in 124) shock patients died during treatment, while another 14 suffered severe complications, such as heart attacks — a rate more than 80 times higher than that claimed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Statistics from Texas, the only state that monitors deaths from electric shock, show that one in every 208 patients died within 14 days of treatment from causes related to electric shock procedure, including brain damage.

     Another study by psychiatrists David Kroessler and Barry Fogel found that among patients over age 80, 50 percent were dead within two years of shock treatment. A comparison group which had not received electric shock had a 90 percent survival rate over the same period.

     Despite overwhelming evidence that a high death rate occurs, the APA continues to recommend that potential patients be advised of a one-in-10,000 risk of death.

     But someone does not have to die on the table from electric shock to have his life ruined by it. As Hugh Polk, medical director of a clinic in Queens, New York, wrote, “A vast medical literature provides strong evidence that electroconvulsive therapy causes permanent brain damage, including loss of memory and catastrophic deterioration of personality.”

     As psychiatrists seek to create larger revenue bases for their “services,” they target selected populations based upon ability to pay for the “treatments.” One survey indicated that at age 65 people abruptly receive two to three times as many shock treatments as do patients at 64, just one year younger. The difference appears to be that Medicare, the federal program to care for elderly patients, begins to pay for services at age 65. Consistently, 48 to 50 percent of the shock population is 65 or over.

     By survey, psychiatrists administer approximately 72 percent of all shock treatments to women. Psychiatrists have thus set their sights on women, particularly elderly women — a highly vulnerable population for a brutal method developed in Fascist Italy.

     “It looks high tech, but it’s very low tech,” said Berkeley neurologist John Friedberg. “They could get the same results with a good steel boot.”

     A recent publication from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), Psychiatry Destroys Minds, presents in-depth information on electric shock supported by extensive documentation. This glossy, 40-page booklet is being distributed to nearly 200,000 health care workers, legislators and others interested in eradicating this barbaric procedure.

To receive a copy, contact CCHR, Or visit CCHR’s Internet site at:

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