Civil Liberties

Psychiatric Hospitals Can Still Force Patients to Accept Shock Treatment. One Connecticut Patient Has Been Shocked 500 Times in Five Years.

Despite concerns about efficacy and side effects, courts are slow to act on behalf of patients who don’t want the treatment.

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Gina Teixeira, an attorney with the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, got the call last May. A court was going to force a man to undergo shock therapy, and he wanted her help fighting the order.

He wasn't alone. Teixeira regularly receives inquiries from Connecticut patients facing involuntary shock treatment court orders, including one client who she says has been unwillingly subjected to the shocks 500 times.

"I think it happens a lot more than people realize," Teixeira says.

Shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), was developed in the late 1930s as a psychiatric treatment for severe psychosis and catatonia. Patients undergoing the procedure receive jolts of electricity from electrodes placed on their temples, triggering a brain seizure and convulsions that last up to a minute. After the two Italian psychiatrists who invented the treatment reported positive results, a 1938 news headline declared "Madness Cured with Electricity."

It soon became evident, though, that the treatment could cause severe cognitive impairment and memory loss. In a 1944 study, shock therapy recipients "described losses such as the inability to recognize friends and acquaintances" which "remained after years and appeared to be permanent." Another study worryingly concluded that patients who improved or recovered after the seizure-inducing treatments had a "high frequency of relapse." 

Reports subsequently emerged in the 1950s of psychiatric hospital doctors and orderlies using the novel treatment to modify the behavior of harmless and healthy patients. One woman was given shock treatment because her family was upset she had run off with her apparently "homosexual" boyfriend and "walked about carrying 'Proust' under her arm." 

To counter evidence of shock therapy's serious side effects, limited therapeutic benefits, and potential for abuse, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) partnered with shock industry lobbyists in the 1970s to persuade the public that the treatment was safe and effective. Though it took time, the public relations campaign succeeded. Prominent media outlets regularly report that today's "safe and effective" version of electroconvulsive therapy no longer resembles the barbaric shock procedure depicted in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Many recipients voluntarily consent to shock therapy, which is typically given for treatment-resistant depression, and get better. In 2008, the National Mental Health Association reported that shock treatments tripled to 100,000 a year, a figure that is frequently re-printed in other news publications. In 2016, Dr. Linda Lagemann, a former associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, estimated that shock therapy generates $1.8 billion in costs annually, half of which are covered by Medicare.

Corresponding with shock therapy's comeback, reports of the procedure's devastating side effects and limited effectiveness re-appeared. A 2010 review of eight meta-analyses concluded that, because shock therapy causes persistent and permanent memory loss and a slight increased risk of death, "its use cannot be scientifically justified." In 2018, as the result of a class-action lawsuit, ECT device maker Somatics added a warning to its instruction manual that in "rare cases, patients may experience…permanent brain damage."

Despite such accounts, warnings and studies, many states still allow physicians to force shock therapy onto people who don't want it. While physicians are typically required to secure court orders before forcibly shocking patients, the Minnesota City Pages has called the process "more of a bureaucratic formality than a serious deliberation." 

It is virtually impossible to know how many Americans are involuntarily shocked, since, besides Texas, states don't require hospitals to report how often they administer the procedure. Likewise, medical privacy laws make it prohibitively difficult for the public to attend involuntary shock hearings.

Without proper scrutiny, patients in Connecticut are especially vulnerable to getting unnecessarily shocked. It is one of the only U.S. states that allows civil psychiatric facilities to hospitalize individuals involuntarily for an indefinite length of time, with minimal judicial oversight: Patients are entitled to a clinical review by a doctor just once a year, and only entitled to a full judicial review every two years. In early 2018, the Connecticut Legal Rights Project filed a class-action lawsuit to declare the state's civil commitment statute unconstitutional.

The man who contacted Teixeira last May, referred to as John Doe in court records, was a patient at the Greater Bridgeport Community Mental Health Center, a Connecticut state-run civil facility that treats adults with prolonged psychiatric and co-occurring illnesses. He had never undergone shock therapy before.

On May 3, 2019, clinicians testified at Bridgeport Probate Court that it was medically necessary to forcibly shock the man. Judge Paul Ganim agreed, and he empowered the man's parents, who act as his conservators, to permit the shock therapy for up to 45 days. (No other details from the court hearing are public, as probate mental health court records are automatically sealed.)

That's when the patient contacted Teixeira.

"He obviously was sophisticated enough to contact me and ask me to file an appeal," Teixeira told the Connecticut Post. "The client told me he is really scared and asked me to help him. This should not be forced on him."

Teixeira subsequently filed for an emergency order to halt the shock treatments, citing the man's fear of side effects, including memory loss. Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Emily Melendez, representing the mental health center, then filed a motion opposing the order. Incredibly, Melendez asserted in her motion that the patient "does not allege any facts to support that such side effects exist or that if they do, that the risk of harm in not providing this treatment outweighs whatever other harm might come from the treatment."

To bolster her emergency order filing, Teixeira asked Connecticut's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for assistance. Department officials never got back to her, and the probate court refused to postpone the procedure.

John Doe was forced to undergo his first round of shock therapy on May 17.

Teixeira was able to schedule an appeal hearing for June 3 at the Superior Court in Bridgeport. During the hearing, Melendez confessed that medical staff violated Connecticut's shock statute.

In Connecticut, shock therapy can be administered over a patient's objection only if the head of a hospital and two qualified physicians agree the patient is incapable of giving informed consent. In this case, Melendez conceded, only the head of the hospital and one qualified physician approved the procedure. The mental health center had improperly allowed a physician's assistant to sign-off on the procedure in lieu of a second qualified physician.

It was a moot point, though, since the hospital had completed the medically necessary rounds of shock therapy, according to Melendez. (Melendez did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

After Melendez' disclosure, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis advised the hospital's legal team that these "are liberty interests that are so important and the statutory protections are there for a reason." She then sustained the patient's appeal to halt any future shock treatments during the 45-day treatment window. 

The man has not been shocked since, according to Teixeira, though she is not authorized to say if he is still hospitalized.

Despite being appreciative of the judge's ruling, Teixeira was furious that the court did not issue an automatic stay after she initially filed her appeal. "This what I really want to talk about, how flawed our shock statute is," she said. "You have a probate order found to be legally defective—and it didn't matter to my client because he was still shocked. To be deprived of that opportunity because the law does not include an automatic stay is a real problem." 

According to Teixeira, the lack of authorization from a second qualified physician wasn't the only defect in the shock application. The state's shock statute requires any possible "less intrusive beneficial treatment" to be given to a patient before shock therapy is forcibly administered. Teixeira contends that the hospital violated this when it didn't offer John Doe the opportunity to take psychiatric medication.

Teixeira is now representing Carol Levesque, a Connecticut woman fighting a shock application filed by Middletown's Connecticut Valley Hospital. According to a complaint Teixeira filed in October, Levesque has been held against her will at the state-run psychiatric hospital since 2015. During that period, she has been shocked 500 times.

Teixeira is incensed at the hospital's most recent shock therapy application, because the procedure has clearly not benefited Levesque. "After years of this forced shock and not having enough benefit for discharge," Teixeira complained, "what's the point?"

In that case, Teixeira was able to persuade a judge to grant a stay of the shock order prior to the appeal hearing. "Now she has the opportunity to challenge the order without constant threat," Teixeira noted.

Even if Teixeira and Levesque win their appeal, the hospital can reapply for shock therapy after 45 days. "You can constantly petition for years and years, and no one is gonna tell you to stop," Teixeira notes. "It's a flaw in the system that doesn't protect people."

Since the shocks were halted, Levesque's physical and mental health appear to have improved. "The hospital says without shock she deteriorates," Teixeira says. "Every time I see her, she looks better."

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  1. This is absolutely horrifying.

    1. Not nearly as bad as court mandated drug therapy.

      1. Really? So you’d rather have 460 volts applied to your brain???

    2. This article is sad and CT is a liberal messed up state.

      Having said that, I have personally received ECT treatments voluntarily which healed me from a major manic episode in my late 20s that anslaut with no prior mental health issues. The proceeders took me two years and you start out twice a week for a month then once a week for two months then once every two weeks for 3 months then once a month for about a year so you play it safe. After that I was completely healed and never felt better. Unfortunately what the media and others won’t tell you is that you have to listen to your doctor and follow the treatment plans.
      I relapsed suverly into another manic episode after spending about two years of smoking highly concentrated medical marijuana. So yes there is a connection between psychosis and marijuana for all of you that want to legalize potent thc without medical research. Anyways, after smoking enough I got paranoid and ended up relapsing into another manic episode which required for me to be hospitalized. I was still cognizante of the nature around me and fought being hospitalized by refusing to sign the paperwork to be entered into the hospital. At that point I freaked out trying to run out of the hospital and was sorrounded by 10 strong staff that placed me on board 8 which was for psychosis. I stayed in the hospital for three months and abided by the head of the hospital and two psychiatrists advise and got ECT every other day for two weeks. Then it was twice a week for two weeks, then once a week. And eventually I was released by the hospital because the state mandated that I was within my rights and I continued ECT for another year and a half gradually reducing my treatments till I was complete by doing one ECT every two months.
      So yes, it does work and please do not stigmatize what you don’t unsterstand. When people hear shock therapy they freak out, ECT treatments have been modernized and studied heavily over time with extremely low levels of electro magnetic waves about 1/5,000 of a heart resporation shock.
      I’m concerned about this situation and see the lawyers as well as intuitions profiting off the patient. They need to model off of states like Georgia with good medical schools and facilities.
      The main point is to listen and understand when your sick cause when your sick you don’t know that you are but you are still very articulate because of the nature that bipolar people like myself lean towards being more “intelligent” aka our brains work too fast for it’s own benefit.

      Just don’t do drugs or binge drink otherwise your putting your brain at risk of danger. Listen to your doctor and I take medications like lamicatical and provigil to keep me steady. Every patient is different so work with your doctor over time to find what’s right. Please be educated and don’t judge the treatment or others who have received it as obviously it’s not something anyone wants in their life or to a family member. I hope this can enlighten people on the subject and to let you know that YES ECT works but DONE PROPERLY, unfortunately there’s only a few good psychiatrists and mine happens to run Dukes and Embory departments after studying at duke. God bless everyone and help those around you that you may suspect need help or you may find them or you in those boat, anyone can become sick if it’s in your genetics it just requires triggers. My only two triggers are stress and sleep. I got sick over a startup job with little sleep, be cautious and health is number one!
      Shock.

      1. I am not sure about people just posting things about such a serious topic. No one can verify what you say.
        I have researched ECT and there are too many problems associated with it. Not sure what other procedures you tried. Not sure your story is true. When you have people who say it harmed them then why do you want to justify forcing it on people? Lobotomy was considered a miracle cure. Did you know that once a man has a lobotomy he can never have an erection. Ever hear someone in the medical field admit that? I find it hard to believe other procedures would not have a beneficial effect. ECT is not a proven treatment that is safe and effective. It just isn’t. And we have medical people murdering people in hospitals. I see the stories all the time. You would trust medical people to force this on people? That is irresponsible.

        1. Thanks for your support and denouncing me as being untruthful. I made an account just to post my personal story.

          Go do more “research” as I’m sure you are truly an expert in this field.

          Put the pipe down too, maybe you’ll need ECT one day. If you can find a good doctor that is. Otherwise I hope you end up in an endless loop of treatment of ECT executed improperly which is the stigma against it and the whole point of this article.

          Everything in moderation.

          Good luck with your wisdom of the healthcare industry, by your logic you’ll never see a doctor so you’ll be okay right…….

          1. Ladies and Gentlemen!
            ECT clearly works!

  2. One woman was given shock treatment because her family was upset she had run off with her apparently “homosexual” boyfriend…

    Seems like the best kind of boyfriend 50’s parents would want their daughter shacking up with.

  3. Even disregarding shock ‘therapy’, has psycho-therapy *ever* been shown to be effective above background noise?

    1. No. In fact, virtually no psychiatric treatments, medications or ECT are effective when you consider the side effects lead many to discontinue treatment

      1. Total nonsense. A number of treatments have been quite effective – especially antipsychotics in the treatment of schizophrenia. If you’d never had a severely schizophrenic relative, you might understand this.

        ECT is also effective for some cases of treatment resistant depression.

        Minor tranquilizers are effective in treating panic disorders. The front line treatment for PTSD is the use of SSRI family antidepressants.

        Talk therapy can be helpful for some people.

        1. I didn’t think that paid psychiatry shills bothered with Reason-too low profile. Considering that I’ve followed the comments section here for 10+ years and have never seen your name before, I assume that’s who you are. You guys pop up every time there’s an article remotely critical of one of your drugs or treatments

          1. You’ve seen my name here Nick. I’m not a paid shill and have no dog in the ECT fight. Mesoman is entirely correct and you are the one who really should shut up. He wasn’t being critical of the article, he was being critical of your ignorant gross overstatement.

            1. “Mesoman is entirely correct and you are the one who really should shut up. He wasn’t being critical of the article, he was being critical of your ignorant gross overstatement.”

              Usually Thomas Szasz gets trotted out around now…

              I’m agreeing with Thomas and Mesoman on this. Psychiatry is a long way from perfect but there are treatment modalities that improve patients’ lives and outcomes over letting them go untreated.

          2. Shut the fuck up. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a paid shill.

            1. And how much were you paid to say that? And how can I get a piece of that fat money cake?

            2. This is not a disagreement. Do you know anything about ECT. I do. It is not a proven safe and effective treatment. Lobotomy was called a miracle cure. I have researched ECT. It is a dangerous procedure. And I don’t know how you can trust someone coming on a site and saying how great it is when you can’t verify anything they say. You can easily look up the problems with ECT. Forcing it on people is barbaric.

          3. That’s absurd. Depression, schizophrenia, and some other “mental illnesses” often (though not always) have a demonstrable biological and physiological basis.

          4. I think you are 100% correct. In fact there are lots of paid trolls on most of these sites to promote certain points of view. ECT is not proven safe and effective. It doesn’t take much research to find that out. And forcing it onto people is barbaric.

        2. Mesoman, your perspective is NOT a personal one. Not one of psychiatry’s risks has ever imperiled your health, future, or quality of life.

          Shut up until you’ve walked your BS talk.

      2. NovaNick. Only willful ignorance would say that.
        Extreme depression was once a fairly common occurrence. People who got it would gradually fall deeper and deeper into despair until they would just sit waiting to die for the remainder of their lives. The phrase “lost the will to live” used to be a valid diagnosis, representing untreated chronic depression.

        Now, even what we think of as serious cases are only the beginning stages of depression, so we don’t think much of this once-debilitating condition.

        You could say the same for most conditions. With early treatment, the extreme cases described in detail not 50 years ago have become an order of magnitude rarer.

        In short, you’re behaving like an anti-vaxxer. Please stop.

        1. I had a close friend with bipolar who underwent ECT, and have had several family members with major depression who were always on the latest greatest antidepressant (none had ECT to my knowledge). None of them improved. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but excuse me for being a bit skeptical.

          1. That’s like saying “medicine is useless” because the women in your family all died from early onset, aggressive breast cancer. There are many forms of cancer, some treatable, some not, some inherited, some not.

            Your family got unlucky. That shouldn’t prevent others from exploring treatment options. Some people are indeed helped by drugs or ECT.

            Hopefully, both cancer and mental health treatments will improve and help more people over time.

        2. There is no comparison to objecting to ECT and objecting to vaccinations. I have researched ECT. It is a dangerous procedure. You don’t have to be a genius to know that submitting the brain to high voltage electricity causes the death of brain cells. Forcing ECT on patients is barbaric. Generally speaking depression is caused by low serotonin levels. Raising the serotonin does not always cure depression but does usually. How much do you know about these topics? I have spent years researching these topics. The fact is psychiatry has very few objective tests to prove most of the conditions they claim. If is were a real science(it is a social science) then they would have objective tests like they have to prove blood type, diabetes, or cancer to name a few. They have few to no objective tests. And in fact I wrote a book proving that multiple personality does not exist and it is being suppressed by the medical community.

          1. I know enough that if a major doctor’s association finds that it is worth recommending, that a bit of internet research won’t be sufficient. Do you really think that they are suggesting this treatment, knowing its reputation from fiction, for fun? I also know from the fact that it is requested by people that its reputation for brutality is at the very least exaggerated.

            1. Um, have you heard of the Opioid crises? Kind of shoots your reasoning in the foot! Not for fun but for profit of course. “It is conservatively estimated that at least 100,000 patients per year receive ECT. The standard number of treatments is 9-12 shocks. The typical cost per treatment is $2000-$2500. 9 x 100,000 x $2000 = $1.8 billion annually. That’s a lot of financial incentive.” Psychiatrists gave up their Hippocratic oath long ago to become pill pushers. Have you ever heard of one recommending a 20 minute walk outside, preferably with some one else as a way to combat depression? Yet research says that’s more effective than anti-depressants. NEVER take the word of a psychiatrist at face value without doing “a bit of internet research”.

              1. Are you saying that opiods should never be prescribed? You are comparing apples to oranges (or perhaps orangutans, given how far fetched your comparison is). Opiods do solve a medical need. They simply have side-effects and potential addiction.

                I agree, treatment should not be entered without open eyes. However, the idea that ECT is simple barbarism without merit is nonsense.

                If you prescribe a 20 minute walk outside to combat depression, you are an imbecile with a fundamental misunderstanding of the disease. Someone who can be cured that easily does not have depression from a medical perspective. Depression is unrelated to sadness. It is more related to chronic despair. I am serious about the “lost the will to live”.

    2. There is good data showing the effectiveness of certain types of talk-therapy. Not all types, though, and the skill of the person you’re talking to matters a lot.

  4. One woman was given shock treatment because her family was upset she had run off with her apparently “homosexual” boyfriend and “walked about carrying ‘Proust’ under her arm.”

    Shocking behavior, shocking results.

    1. What the fuck is Proust?

      Trying to look it up, all I get is a French Chemist and a French novelist/poet. If she was walking around carrying either one under her arm, why wasn’t she arrested for kidnapping?

      1. What the fuck is Proust? What the fuck is Hemingway? What the fuck is Shakespeare? – So many questions to ask, for the ignorant.

  5. This underscores how corrupt the state-medico complex is. Reminds me of what I’ve read about the Soviet Union forcing treatment on their subjects. I’m surprised – uh SHOCKEd that such a thing is still happening in this day and age. Goes to show you not to trust docs.

  6. courts are slow to act on behalf of patients who don’t want the treatment

    Not a fan of involuntary shock treatments. At the same time, not a fan of hasty action by the courts taken at the behest of crazy people.

    1. Depends a lot on the crazy person and if they are a member of a preferred group. Well connected crazies can go on to become successful artists, writers, or democrat politicians. It’s the poor bums who revolve in and out of jail/treatment and the street.

    2. Only a crazy person would say that.

      1. Really only crazy person. Its a horrible. I dont know where we are want to going now or will go.

  7. The only kind of shock therapy that does work isn’t done by connecting electrodes to the temples, it is accomplished by putting a strap around the waste of the person and usually a retarded person that engages in self harm and then shocking them when they try to hurt themself by banging their head into a wall. It has been shown to work, but zapping someones brain doesn’t really do much beyond cause brain damage.

    1. “zapping someones brain doesn’t really do much beyond cause brain damage.”

      People willingly repeat ECT, some think it is because they perceive benefit in symptom reduction and improved life functionality, but I suppose it could be due to brain damage.

      1. Alcohol damages brain cells too. Many of us repeat exposure to that too.

  8. Barbarism. I hope these “doctors” are taken to the cleaners.

  9. It makes one wonder if Psychiatry is often highly politicized in the USA, and in other so-called “free” democracies, using these so-called scientifically based “treatments” perhaps, to curtail unpopular political, religious and intellectual opinions and beliefs. Is this procedure used for healing or is it used to punish people for speaking their minds?

    1. All societies use psychiatry when individuals are incapable of functioning in society.

      In Western democracies, that means that people have mental problems that prevent them from living independently and make them a danger to others. If you make $100k/year and don’t go around shouting at people on the street, people aren’t going to give you ECT in the US for your political beliefs.

      In socialist countries, “incapable of functioning”, of course does translate into holding “unpopular political, religious and intellectual opinions and beliefs”.

      So, you’re kind of right.

  10. The article is dishonest, citing just one obscure article on the negative side of ECT. There is solid evidence that ECT is helpful for some subset of patients.

    Also, there has been a long running attack on mental health treatment in the US, and that has polarized and misinformed the debate. The arrogance of the old line psychotherapy practitioners didn’t help in that regard. But, the result of that attack (especially on forced commitment) is a great increase in the number of severely ill untreated, many of whom constitute a significant portion of the homeless population.

    Whether ECT is justified in an unconsenting patient, on the other hand, is certainly worthy of debate.

    1. The arrogance of the old line psychotherapy practitioners didn’t help in that regard.

      The arrogance of the new line of psychotherapy and sociology practitioners isn’t helping either.

    2. Hey Mesoman, appreciate you taking the time to read my article and respond. To clarify, I cited 7 articles and reports on the “negative side of ECT”, 4 of which have been published in the past decade, 3 of which contain countless studies of other articles citing the procedure’s negative effects and 1 of which comes directly from an ECT device manufacturer.

      1. Do you have an alternate treatment that has similar benefits without negative effects?

        The newest thing is ketamine, but that certainly has it’s own issues.

      2. I have to agree with Thomas, we have legitimate disagreement in the psychiatric community. Neither side is completely wrong, and both sides have research to back up their conclusions.

        That being said, one-sided arguments like this article, citing cases of abuse from before any of us were born to whip up a moral panic is frankly an abuse of your journalistic privilege. It’s pandering to cause a moral outrage while ignoring the clear disagreements that many people in the psychiatric community have.

      3. ECT has massive negative side effects in many people. But so do most cancer treatments. What’s your point?

    3. Yup. “Old nut houses were awful, so it’s horrible to put people in them now!” is not an argument.

      ECT may or may not help for different things… But it is not total quackery. I imagine like most treatments it’s a case by case thing. Amputating limbs is a rough procedure too… But it saves lives or further physical harm all the time.

      1. ” But it is not total quackery.”

        You’re right it’s not quackery, it’s torture.

        1. So is amputating your leg below the knee to save your whole leg, or your life! But it’s still better than the alternative. We live in an imperfect world dude.

    4. re: “There is solid evidence that ECT is helpful for some subset of patients.”

      No, there is not. There is weak evidence that ECT might be helpful to some subset but 1) even after decades of use, they can not reliably say which subset might benefit and which will not, 2) the magnitude of benefit is very close to the level of noise in the data and 3) the evidence of benefits are vastly outweighed by the very solid evidence of negative side-effects.

      Okay, I will offer one qualifier. There are studies that show ECT is helpful as long as your definition of “helpful” is limited to patient outcomes of “compliant”, “passive”, “quiet” and similar attributes. If you’ve got someone acting out all the time, yes, ECT will “calm” them down. But it’s like “calming” a little kid who runs away from home by breaking his legs. For studies that define “helpful” in terms other than passivity and compliance, no, there are none showing anything close to “strong evidence”.

      1. What if the kid is literally insane, and you’re actually saving them from greater harm by breaking their legs???

        Because that’s basically what’s up with crazy people. I had a close relative with severe mental issues… I’m not speaking from ignorance. You people make the mistake of thinking there is some nice, happy, way of dealing with everybody… There is not. They must be locked up and depending on the condition/person medicated, strapped down in a bed or straight jacket all day, or maybe ECTed.

        It sucks, but it’s the truth.

        1. Yes!!!!

          I am somewhat critical of the fields of psychology and psychiatry, but it is very easy to stand back and point at how bad some of these treatments appear. But these same people often forget that we don’t know everything about the human brain or the human mind (I am one of those who believes these are 2 separate, but linked things). Sure we can map the brain and see what sections fire during certain things (speech, pattern recognition, pleasure, pain, etc.) But we have so much yet to learn.
          And sometimes, life is fucking messy. Sometimes, a crazy person is truly crazy. Not depressed, not borderline personality, not upset. But fucking psychotic. And if certain treatments offer some hope, then they should be at least be evaluated and compare the possible benefits vs. possible risks.

          1. Yup. As much as I don’t like it myself, if you don’t ever try things, even wacky things, you’ll never move the ball forward and find solutions to problems.

            1. Vek, you are the problem. So, let’s try a “wacky” solution and chain you to a bed until you die. Then, society will be relieved of your ableism, which, honestly, has reached a Hitler-level of cray-cray .

        2. What if the moon is made of green cheese? It’s an interesting hypothetical that also has nothing to do with the analogy I was making.

          Note that nothing I said disagrees with your assertion that some people need to be involuntarily committed and even medicated. Personally, I believe the deinstitutionalization movement, while somewhat justified by the horrors of psychiatric hospitals of the time, has done much more harm than good. But those treatments have actual evidence supporting their ability to prevent harm and sometimes help.

          My sole claim here (and disagreement with Mesoman) is that there is no such evidence in support of ECT. It is a barbaric practice that is not in fact supported by “solid” medical evidence.

          1. In the late 1970s when I took Psychiatry at the Chicago Medical School, I saw a number of patients who appeared to me to have their depression helped dramatically by ECT. They were not involuntary, not committed at all in fact. Veterans Administration.

            1. Also side benefit for med studients is that the treatment was a lot of fun to witness: the grand mal seizure waxing and waning very predictably, then in the recovery room afterward interviewing them and observing the “curtain” of retrograde amnesia starting decades back and then very reproducibly advancing to when they came in. And what’s hilarious is how the patients shrug off the (temporary) absence of their memories as a trifle!

          2. Well, I think we’re mostly in agreement then. I’m not expert, but have read in passing over the years that ECT does seem to help with some stuff. You can say it doesn’t help with anything if you want. Frankly, I don’t know for sure as I don’t have first hand experience. But I will side with those that say it does help sometimes. That just leaves it as a question of the right time/place/person to use it on vs not IMO.

      2. Okay, I will offer one qualifier. There are studies that show ECT is helpful as long as your definition of “helpful” is limited to patient outcomes of “compliant”, “passive”, “quiet” and similar attributes. If you’ve got someone acting out all the time, yes, ECT will “calm” them down.

        And sometimes that kind of calming is all you can do.

        People simply do not grasp the nature of some of these maladies.

        The one who constantly bites–at others, at himself. The one who scratches himself endlessly–and this particular delusion is far more common that you’d think. The one who shrieks to drown out the yelling in his head.

        That ‘calm’ that you decry may be the only moments in their day when they are not in torment.

      3. Okay, I will offer one qualifier. There are studies that show ECT is helpful as long as your definition of “helpful” is limited to patient outcomes of “compliant”, “passive”, “quiet” and similar attributes.

        That “outcome” might be directly related to the outcome of “still alive”.

    5. Not too hard to find negative articles and research on ECT, it only takes a few minutes to look. You can start here – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/shock-therapy-whos-getting-rich-and-whos-getting_b_57a2466fe4b0456cb7e14eb5
      As usual you need to follow the money trail. No one made any money telling depressed patients to take a 20 minute walk outside with a companion, yet independent studies show it is more effective than any anti-depressant. And of course there’s the research that some anti-depressants do the opposite in some patients. But the high and mighty psychiatrist who gets to do chemistry experiments on gullible human guinea pigs with no accountability and gets PAID for it – yeah he’s the one I’ll trust. You do know that the “suicide epidemic” among returning vets is not due to what they suffered in combat but because of the cocktails of drugs they were forced to take? Again, it only takes a few minutes to find the studies. You say that ECT is effective in helping a small subset of patients – that justifies the giving it to anyone basically who will pay? I dont think that is worthy of debate, its a crime!

  11. So, worse evil, involuntarily ‘jailing’ and ECTing someone who’s non-violent or executing someone duly-convicted of a violent crime?

    Moreover, assuming there is no help for these people, exactly what is the length of time they should be imprisoned prior to their death? Why?

    1. Some crazy people need to be locked up for the rest of their lives, even if they aren’t violent per se. You can’t have people running around stealing things, sleeping on sidewalks, and shitting in the streets.

      We need to return to more forced lock ups of crazy people like back in the day. We should just try to make the nut houses a little nicer than back then.

      1. “We need to return to more forced lock ups of crazy people like back in the day.”

        Fine, but it should be solidly illegal to torture them to make them easier to manage.

        1. Fine, but it should be solidly illegal to torture them to make them easier to manage.

          I’m not sure what that statement means. If someone is violent and dangerous due to mental illness, what do you propose other people do? Are you going to force professionals and guards to deal with untreated, dangerous, mentally ill individuals?

          The options for individuals who are dangerous either to themselves or others seem to be limited to death, solitary confinement, or serious drugs or ECT to make them “easier to manage”. I’m all for giving people those options, but it’s not like there is a fourth alternative.

        2. So you want them kept in a comatose state via drugs then? Because if ECT does help some and allow them to be more mobile, drugging them may be a worse option for them.

          Whatever the case, there are some people who need SOMETHING done. None of the options are nice. The world sucks.

      2. Vek, we agree on a lot of things, but I have to disagree pretty sharply on this one. What you described is no worse than bar closing in my city. If that level of impairment is so inherently intimidating that it justifies locking people up on the off-chance that they *might* do something bad at an unspecified later time, then police could summarily arrest people based on their breathalyzer results.

        1. Well, I think it all obviously needs to be person by person.

          I’ve known some semi-crazy people who were semi-functional people. Some people can take their meds, see a shrink, live with family, or whatever and not be a big problem. However some people that are theoretically at the same level of crazy cannot.

          I think people should always be given the option to rehabilitate themselves to the point where they can be let back out into the world… But if they blow it, over and over again, there’s no other option but to lock them up. Guilty AFTER being proven so so to speak.

      3. Vek, wrongful imprisonment is illegal to perpetrate on ANYONE, including disabled people. Read your Constitution. And, NIMBY can be resolved by

        1) expanding the social safety net

        2) fostering independence by encouraging people to leave the situations (families, jobs, schools, etc.) that hurt their health

        and

        3) allowing the free market to do its thing, and abolish psychiatry’s monopoly on the “life management” industry

        1. You seem to not accept the idea that some people are beyond help… But they are. I’ve known people like this. You need to snap back to reality man.

    2. I agree that society shouldn’t have an easy 1 step process for involuntary committal. However, there should be some avenue by which the average individual’s rights are protected through due process, while allowing for committal of the truly sick individual.
      And as long as we are human beings, both in society and government, this will not be easy to find where that line should be drawn.

    3. We owe sockpuppet no answers. Sockpuppet might care to shoot a bunch of people at a birth control clinic, be declared incompetent, have us us forced to pay its room and board, and then maybe report back to us with hard data?

      1. Hank, you strike me as the sort of person who likely needs involuntary commitment. You and Hihn.

  12. Without proper scrutiny, patients in Connecticut are especially vulnerable to getting unnecessarily shocked. It is one of the only U.S. states that allows civil psychiatric facilities to hospitalize individuals involuntarily for an indefinite length of time, with minimal judicial oversight

    This is fucking evil. The Soviet Union probably had better protections in place.

    What are the other states that permit this?

  13. Oh come on, nothing daffodils, daisies walking, butterflies swimming, wrong with electric sparrows, swans dancing, shock therapy.

  14. This is frightening stuff. The cynic in me thinks the system is preying people for profit like Ms. Levesque. One would think after a couple of times they’d let it go, but 500? This is a crime against a human being in my view.

    Maybe instead of woodchipper for people who do this, they undergo shock therapy and see how they like it.

    If Emily had a family member subjected to this. I’m sure she’d change her tune.

    I’m not confident there aren’t some really bad people forcing this on patients.

    The ghost of Nurse Ratchet lives.

    1. “I’m not confident there aren’t some really bad people forcing this on patients. ”

      I’m sure there are… But if 99% of the time it’s well intentioned, and some times it’s even effective… How does one weigh these benefits? I’m sure lot of crazy people refuse to do this treatment, even if it DOES help them, just as they do with other meds.

      1. It’s definitely filled with grey areas.

        And I do believe there are less Nurse Ratchet’s and do hope the examples cited in the article are the exceptions.

        I’m a little more ”touchy’ with these stories because mental illness runs through my family.

        1. It is. I hate people that try to turn stuff to black and white, because almost nothing is black and white IRL.

          But with a lot of stuff you just have to do as best you can. It sounds like CT has several reasonable laws in place to keep things on the up and up. One needs guardians permission it sounds like, and signed off my multiple medical professionals. What else are you going to demand? That the Pope approves it?

          I have schizophrenia in my family… I think I’m in the clear, but sometimes things don’t show up until later in life… My relative wasn’t violent really, but clearly could not be trusted to be on their own. People who don’t get this are fools.

          1. And is it worse to occasionally shock someone, or pump them full of antipsychotic drugs 24/7? Those drugs aren’t exactly a walk in the park either.

      2. Sounds like Connecticut is a serious outlier in their ability to compel treatment indefinitely. Every other state I am familiar with has very limited amounts of time before you have to go to court.

        Of course, the states I’m generally familiar with are also largely ‘underfunded’ when it comes to mental health, so the courts are probably much less likely to sign off on much in the way of compelled treatment, and the facilities are even less likely to want to get involved with those patients for much the same reason.

    2. Sadly, many times it’s the family members who are pushing for the use of shock therapy. My father was a shrink and worked for years to help a woman who was involuntarily committed by her own son and repeatedly subjected to ECT over her objections. Her “disease” was wanting to have a sex life (her husband had passed away and she started dating men in the retirement home) and the adult son thought that was icky.

      1. Thanks for the oppression fiction from the 1920s.

        In the real world, psychiatrists try to deal with seriously mentally ill people who often cannot make rational decisions with respect to their own care.

        1. That’s an even better response than I would have written!

          And if true… WTF is wrong with your father? As a doctor he could have denied that she had any mental issues, told the son to fuck off, and done the right thing.

        2. Actually, it was a story from Delaware in the 1980s and 90s. And for clarification, my father was not the treating psychologist. He was attempting, mostly unsuccessfully, to intervene on the mother’s behalf and get the son’s guardianship overturned.

        3. Robert Dear says he’s not crazy at all, just a religious warrior for the babies.

          1. Yes Ha k, we know you love to kill healthy babies. I’m sure you just jacked off to some of Gosnell’s Greatest Hits.

            Now fuck off.

        4. Macy, you’re a denialist (or else deluded as hell) about the atrocities that are perpetrated on women at home. Rossami’s story is VERY realistic. Sex lives have always been fodder for #FAKESCIENCE psychiatry, particularly when women are the targets. The widow on Rossami’s story could EASILY have been quacked as “bipolar” or “borderline”, since each of those labels are designed with slut-control in mind.

          You’ve made the completely irrational decision to claim that a woman is “sick” for wanting sex after her husband dies. And, unlike that widow, your delusion hurts OTHER PEOPLE. If anyone deserves to be quacked, it’s YOU!

    3. I wonder if they are also ripping out women’s Fallopian tubes.

      #OliverWendallHolmes

  15. Surprised to see such a poorly researched and sensationalist article in Reason. This controversy is being propagated by dirtbag lawyers who want to sensationalize/demonize ECT, which is often the only therapy that works for some people with major depression. Congrats Reason, you’ve become part of the racket.

    1. Hope you’re right.

      I wrote a couple of comments taking the article at face value but there’s probably more at play. Hopefully.

    2. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my article Johnny Rotten. To be clear, I noted in the article that the therapy works for many people with treatment-resistant depression.

      In regards to my research, could you point out which of the 29 citations you had a problem with?

    3. The dirtbag lawyer only wanted the state to respect her clients’ rights.

    4. Totally agree – sex reassignment surgery works with some people with severe gender dysphoria, I don’t see what harm it would do to involuntary that sort of treatment either. I can see where some people might object to such a thing, but, c’mon, they’re crazies who obviously don’t know what’s for their own good.

      1. I did not expect to see this comment while I was scrolling through this article and I was floored when I did. It flies in the face of the reasoned debate around the use of sex reassignment surgery as a first-in-class treatment where hormone therapy has failed to produce desired results by trivializing both arguments.

        I’m going to hope you were not doing so deliberately, and this was a careless comparison, not a malicious one. However, sex reassignment surgery is already a subject wrought with misinformation and public misuse, so it’s not safe to just let it lie. Here are just a few of the ways these scenarios are nonequivalent:

        ECT is non-invasive and can be stopped at any time and makes few direct changes to the body. Sex reassignment surgery is permanent and surgically alters several major bodily systems. Comparing SRS to ECT is to imply that ECT is a permanent and physically altering when that is the exception, not the rule. It is also the case that the physical alterations are deliberate in sex reassignment surgery, not accidental as in the case of potential brain damage caused by ECT. These two treatments do not square by type and that alone should disqualify any analogy. Closer to apples to potatoes than apples to oranges.
        ECT has been shown in some cases to have results but evidence is thin. Sex reassignment surgery nearly always results in claims of increased quality of life, which are the only ethically viable subject for study in patients with gender dysphoria. Comparing SRS to ECT is to imply that SRS would not reliably have the desired effect of increased quality of life (or claims thereof). That is false.
        ECT is often used as a last choice for care because others can fail inexplicably. SRS is used as a fairly common option because there simply aren’t others. A non-invasive treatment that ends the need for further care, as ECT can, would instantly skyrocket to near the top of the chart for gender dysphoria – even one of the worst options for general disorders would be fairly noncontroversial for gender dysphoria. This mismatch between patient presentation and symptoms and the severity of (hormonal, surgical) treatment is the primary cause of debate. To compare the two is to equivocate access to treatment and care, as though people with gender dysphoria have a library of modern drugs that could help cure their disorder or minimize it with relatively minor side effects as is quickly becoming the case with schizophrenia and other previously fatal mental illnesses.
        Patients with gender dysphoria are generally in control of their mental faculties. While there are many comorbid mental disorders (most of them related to depressive feelings about their sex and gender), they are rarely advanced to a degree that they cannot make decisions on their own. Patients who receive ECT are typically those for whom a failure of treatment is like a death sentence. Equating the two is to imply that either some or most of the people treated with ECT are not in fact a danger to themselves and others (they are) or to imply that people with gender dysphoria are in fact a danger to themselves and others (they typically are not, so long as their care is managed appropriately).
        Gender dysphoria of a clinical kind is extremely rare when compared to other severe mental disorders that ECT can directly treat. It is in many cases ‘not even a disorder’ because it is not a substantial impediment to daily life. Only the most severe cases make it out of (often mandatory) therapy, let alone hormone therapy. While arguments can be made about the medical community’s abject refusal to study alternative treatments and certain purely political actors who advocate surgery as the first option (it will never be, so long as medical ethics uphold), few will say that sex reassignment surgery should not be an option at all. There is a much larger population of patients who are valid targets for ECT and a much more thorough body of evidence both for its efficacy and for its unintended side-effects. To equate the two is to imply that the deliberate consequences of sex reassignment surgery are similar unintended side effects and that people know exactly what is going on, when in fact the far reaching implications of such a major surgery are unclear and mostly unstudied due to the circumstances and relative newness of the population it is used for.

        1. I think Jerryskids was just making a wiseass, off-center response to my comment and not serious. Nonetheless, your response was very thoughtful.

  16. I don’t know what the specific laws are up here in Quebec, but shock therapy was suggested for my sister who suffers from depression.

    When her doctor saw her gradually getting worse, she suggested she go live with family. So my other sister took her in for three months. While there were ups and downs, the hospital was really helpful and trying to set on her path to NOT use drastic measures like shock therapy (which they did speak somewhat positively) or re-hospitalization. She wanted her in comfortable surroundings.

    Luckily, she got better before it got to ST.

    Doctors should be compassionate. The system that defends a public institution need to be more compassionate. That means people like Melendez and the media. They need to speak up for people who have no power or voice; not beat them over the head with coercive power. How does that help on any level especially with those afflicted with mental illness?

    Reminds me of ‘Shawshank Redemption’. What goes on behind the walls housing the people we discard should be our responsibility collectively as a society to ensure we’re not mistreating people.

  17. Sooo a bunch of doctors, probably well meaning, suggest a therapy… A mentally ill person doesn’t want it… But a judge gives the okay TO GET PERMISSION FROM HIS LEGAL GUARDIANS, his parents, who do give permission…

    WTF else can one expect? You can’t let crazy people make their own decisions. I doubt his parents are giving their permission because they hate him or want to do him harm.

    I’m sure cases of abuse do happen, which sucks… But that just means one might need to tweak details/procedures to reduce abuse… You HAVE to have a system whereby somebody gets to make decisions for crazy people. You know how many nuts refuse to take medications? Like most of them. They HAVE to be forced. I had a relative who would go off his meds and do crazy shit. It was not good for him or anybody else when that happened.

    So maybe better rules around this stuff… But playing it up like a guys parents giving permission after doctors suggest a possible treatment… This isn’t abuse, it’s the system trying to work as best as it can. Not all people are rational, intelligent, sane people fit to make their own decisions. Pretending otherwise is BS.

    1. As I understand it, patients are protected by doctor-patient privilege and confidentiality. So if a patient doesn’t consent for doctors to speak to a relative or friend, it must be respected.

      For years we tried to get my sister to give consent to our sister and she resisted. Finally, she relented and now the doctor speaks directly to the family as well.

      You still can’t force something on someone if they don’t want it even if it’s well-meaning or even beneficial.

      1. I believe that might be true to a point… But I think if somebody is declared mentally incompetent, then the person who takes over legal guardianship is entitled to that info no matter what.

        I don’t agree that you can’t force people to do things even if it’s for their own good… First off, WE DO in reality. Second off, on a moral level, sometimes you have to. With a senile or insane person it’s no different than handling a child… Why would you feel bad for forcing a kid to brush their teeth or eat their veggies?

        It’s just one of MANY, many, many things that suck in the world. However sometimes it must be done. My family has had to make multiple unfortunate decisions for relatives, both just because they were old, and because they had mental issues.

        1. Vek, you and your family sound appalling. Disabled adults deserve as much autonomy as non-disabled adults. A vulnerable adulthood is no excuse to infantilize someone.

          As “Rufus The Monoceled” has demonstrated, there are MANY low-force and no-force ways to help people. Also, no one has ever alleged that veggies and toothpaste are instruments of torture. Not even the most recalcitrant child.

          1. You’re an idiot.

            We’ve never tortured anybody in our family. However one member had mental issues and was not able to live on his own. He was occasionally a little too rascally to live with relatives too, or else we would have done that. He lived in a nice, quiet, small group home type place where he was pretty happy, and people were able to visit him often. But he COULD NOT live on his own. It was simply not possible.

            With a grandma, she just got to be too old. We moved her to a different city so she could leave near her best daughter, in a place of her own. Eventually even that wasn’t possible, so she had to be put where she could get 24 hour care. The places was decent, and she was visited EVERY SINGLE DAY by my aunt, and plenty by other relatives. Again, since nobody could take full time 24 hour care of her, there weren’t really other options.

            So fuck off telling me I’m a horrible person or my family has done shitty things to my relatives. In a perfect world I would have loved to have a mansion where I could have hired a private nurse for my grandma to live with me… But nobody in the family is that rich, so we did the best we could. I know SOME people are shitty to relatives, but most aren’t.

    2. Well, if the guy knew enough to contact a lawyer to file an appeal to halt the treatment, he might not have been quite as incompetent to make his own decisions as the hospital made him out to be. And it certainly seems to me to raise the issue of a conflict of interest to have the same people arguing on behalf of the treatment to be the ones to declare him incompetent to refuse the treatment.

      1. Having a right to an outside doctors opinion should be a totally in law option. But just because somebody thinks of the idea of contacting a lawyer doesn’t mean anything.

        I’ve known some REAL nutters in my everyday life. Like a chick who tried to kill herself a shit ton of times, and was forcibly committed on multiple occasions. She’s not retarded. She knows what lawyers are. But she IS crazy, hence not really capable of making intelligent choices for most stuff in her life. Her life is a total disaster area, she wildly swings in and out of mental states, and as I said has been locked up against her will a few times by family.

        What’s there to do about her? Either let her run around making a mess of her life in the outside world, which is what she usually does… Or lock her up forever. She’s on the cusp, but probably better off just running around being a nutty broad… But somebody just a LITTLE more crazy would probably be better off in an asylum. It sucks, but it is what it is.

    3. But you don’t strap them to a table and put 460 volts of current thru their brain! There are many less invasive, barbaric and cruel treatments. If this is the best psychiatrists can come up with, then we don’t need psychiatry.

    4. Vek, you don’t “have” to batter, brainwash, or cage anyone. If your relatives are such a “budren” to you, LEAVE THEM ALONE, so they might keep their liberty and have, at least, a chance at life.

      1. See my post above retard. None of my relatives have ever been in a “cage,” or brainwashed, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

        But the fact is if my mentally ill relative had been just a little more violent and unruly, he would have had to be put in a facility that had more security… Which would have sucked. He would get pissed sometimes and do minor violent things, like yell for a minute, or break a cup, but not often and not bad.

        But SOME PEOPLE DO do stuff that’s too out of line. Like constantly assaulting people, screaming nearly constantly, breaking things every chance they get, etc. If you’re too retarded to understand this I don’t even know what to say.

  18. It is likely a lot of unverified and unverifiable claims but what I would like to question is the grammatical knowledge of the writer. “Re” is not written with a dash. Reprint, reappear, not re-print, re-appear. “Besides Texas” does not mean “except for Texas”. And what the heck is “It is one of the only U.S. states”?
    Maybe the writer had ECT and this is the proof?

    1. ^Correct observations.

  19. I suspect Connecticut’s laws are left over from the days of adversarial divorce, when wealthy men used psychiatry to dispose of uncooperative first wives who wouldn’t grant a divorce. Stepford was in Connecticut, right?

    1. There was also an episode of Mad Men where this same thing happened. Also in CT.

  20. I am shocked, SHOCKED at the reports of ECT in this establishment!

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  24. It is a shame that Reason has chosen to demonize ECT while correctly condemning involuntary treatment. ECT is for many with treatment resistant depression the only hope and a literal life saver. Like any medical procedure it has side effects and risks, but for tens of thousands of patients who choose this voluntarily the benefits outweigh the risks.

    1. It’s about time someone starts demonizing ECT! Right now, 19 states are electroshocking children… 7 states shocking children between the ages 0-5. This is insane and needs to be stopped!

      1. Why is it insane if it provides relief from a crippling disease? Depression has frequent deadly consequences – ECT doesn’t help everyone but it helps many. The costs and benefits need to be weighed in each individual case as with any other treatment, without hyperbole.

  25. “that shock therapy generates $1.8 billion in costs annually, half of which are covered by Medicare.”

    So this is what “Medicare for everyone” will look like?

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  29. Ugo Cerletti was one of those Italian psychiatrists who, after seeing pigs electric-shocked before slaughter, making them more docile before being killed, inspired him to try the same “treatment” on humans. This is how some psychiatrists think of their fellow human beings.

    1. The better alternative is to drug them 24/7?

      Everybody that is 100% against this in ALL cases seems to not accept the fact that some people are too far gone to be allowed to run their own lives. Some of those people are violent. An aunt of mine worked at a state mental hospital in the high security wing as a nurse. She was assaulted countless times, and eventually had to quit after she was injured badly enough where should couldn’t even really work anymore.

      They’re not all nice crazy people.

  30. A lot of posts, not a lot of understanding. Modern electric treatment isn’t like in the 50s, nor like “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The voltage is high but in milli-amperes (no significant current), it no longer causes convulsions and extreme pain.

    While I’m certain there are a few cases of abuse, just as with prescription drugs, it seems far LESS likely to be harmful to the patient than drug addiction.

  31. 500 times in 5 years is like a time and a half a day. That’s shocking!

  32. Here’s the deal: SHOCK IS TORTURE!!! Many years ago, I was *thisclose* to being fried up. As it is, I’m saddled with busted organs in both my metabolic and reproductive systems, all of which were in top shape before my 8 years of psychiatric narcotics.

    For those of you who might be considering shock or who feel obliged to “hear out” the proponents of shock, know that it CAN make your life a lot worse. This “procedure” is barbaric and irreversible, and is STILL untested, even after decades of (mis)use.

    If you’re being pressured to fry up by people who have *not* been fried, people who know of no one who might vouch for the fry, or people who just want a world without Mad humanity, CUT THEM LOOSE *AND* SAY “NO!” TO SHOCK!

    1. You are misinformed if you consider ECT to be torture – it is not. The procedure is performed under anesthesia; sometimes the side effects include headaches or disorientation, and the memory effects are definitely real.

      However, for some patients, the side effects are worth the benefits, and they are able to lead successful lives, even while continuing to get periodic maintenance treatments.

      If the procedure were torture thousands of patients would not voluntarily continue to use it.

      1. This person is an idiot, not even worth the time.

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  35. Not a fan of involuntary shock treatments. At the same time, not a fan of hasty action by the courts taken at the behest of crazy people. https://www.mcd-voice.me/

  36. It’s barbaric torture treatments.

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