Reel Science / UK premiere

Brain Disorder: The Electric Mind

  • Nadav Harel /
  • Israel /
  • 2010 /
  • 60 mins

Documentary / Hebrew

A timely examination of increasing ubiquitous and always controversial medical technologies.

Following the lives of four patients with brain disorders, director Nadav Harel examines the application of medical technology such as Electrocondusive Therapy and Deep Brain Stimulation that treats the mind simply as a series of signals in the brain. The film will be followed by in depth discussion around our understanding of how electric manipulation of our minds has progressed so far, and where it might be going soon.

2011 Archive

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  • #1 Cheryl Prax / Sunday 19 June, 2011 / 10:38 GMT

    ECT causes brain damage. It is not a cure. Same as being hit over the head with a mallet – a closed head injury (Peter Breggin) The euphoria lasts for 4 weeks - the same time it takes to recover from a brain injury then the patient is back where they started with depression but also with the problem of permanent memory loss and difficulty learning anything new. Unilateral ECT on the right side of the brain also targets insight so the patient will be less likely to notice their deficits. Max Fink and Paul Hock very famous psychiatrists have admitted in the past that the brain damage of ECT is what causes the 'cure'.
    Psychiatrists do not tell patients the negative side of ECT. Patients are often also on dangerous psychiatric drugs. The drugs increase the likelihood of having the ECT electricity turned up to start a seizure – more electricity equals more brain damage. The bigger the headache the more damage has been done. You wouldn’t run an electric current across your computer hard drive in the hope of getting rid of a virus would you? The brain is more sensitive.
    Also even though the muscles don’t contract if a paralysing agent is added, the electricity still runs through the body stronger than a ‘normal’ epileptic fit, What is so good about an epileptic fit anyway? Neurologists try all they can to STOP people having epileptic fits! ECT can cause spontaneous epileptic fits in a few people or even death.
  • #2 Cheryl Prax / Sunday 19 June, 2011 / 10:47 GMT

    Electroshock always causes brain damage, permanent memory loss, learning disabilities and other intellectual impairments.
    Electroshock often causes fear or terror in patients
    Even by conventional psychiatric standards, electroshock has an
    extremely high relapse rate - over 70% within one year
    Electroshock does not significantly relieve depression or prevent
    suicide. In fact several research studies indicate that electroshock
    can aggravate or trigger depression and suicide attempts: the Nobel
    Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway killed himself shortly after
    undergoing a second series of electroshocks.
    Psychiatrists frequently violate the ethical-legal principle of
    informed consent when prescribing/ordering electroshock. Subjects are
    not informed or are misinformed about the procedure's harmful effects,
    nor are they informed about non-injurious, non-medical approaches such
    as counselling (including peer counselling, self help groups, and life
    style changes)
    Electroshock discriminates against highly vulnerable people. Its
    chief targets are women and the elderly. Children are also being
    subjected to electroshock in growing numbers. In the United States and
    Canada, 70% of electroshock is administered to women and upwards of
    half of those undergoing electroshock are 60 years of age and older.
    Electroshock machines have never been independently inspected or
    approved for their medical safety. Since 1978, the Food and Drug
    Administration of the United States government has officially placed
    shock machines in its most dangerous medical device category "class
    III" hazardous and unsafe.
    Electroshock has caused many deaths. Such deaths are routinely
    minimized or underreported in the medical psychiatric literature.
    Rarely are psychiatrists or electroshock facilities requested to report
    electroshock caused deaths or any information concerning the use of
    electroshock to governmental regulatory bodies.
  • #3 Cheryl Prax / Sunday 19 June, 2011 / 10:50 GMT

    Above comment summarised from the following source:

    On July 28, 2001 the Board of Directors of Mindfreedom International
    wrote the "Resolution Against Electroshock - A Crime Against Humanity"
    which states:
  • #4 Louise MacLellan / Tuesday 21 June, 2011 / 16:35 GMT

    Having viewed ECT I find it wholly irresponsible for you to scaremonger people into the idea that ECT, although still controversial is akin to “being hit over the head with a mallet”. The vision of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is far from accurate in 2011. It is a safe and very controlled procedure that the patient goes through with ease.
    Some patients do not have any side effects at all following ECT. The only risk of death is due to either patients who go on to commit suicide or the risk posed by going under general anaesthetic. In an audit carried out in Scotland over 3 years, it was revealed only 1 patient committed suicide following ECT; bear in mind that 15% of patients with severe depression go on to kill themselves. To see the full and long lasting effects of ECT, up to 6 treatments usually needs to take place. The risk of death when undergoing general anaesthesia is roughly 1 in 50000, the same level you will find in dental anaesthesia.
    Memory loss is a well known and common symptom of ECT but again, does not occur with everybody and most people find their memories return with time. Depressive illness itself can affect memory, and therefore there is no clear way of telling if ECT was solely the cause of permanent memory loss.
    Patients who have received ECT do not develop any difficulty learning new tasks, this is just false.
    The same audit mentioned above revealed there was a definite improvement in 71% of people treating with ECT for depression and that over 80% of patients prescribed ECT gave informed consent. This means patients are advised of the risks associated with ECT as well as potential benefits
  • #5 Louise MacLellan / Tuesday 21 June, 2011 / 16:36 GMT

    The NICE guidelines state that ECT is only recommended when a severe depressive illness is present for some time and resistant to other treatments, that the illness is endangering your life as you are not eating/drinking enough or you are seriously considering suicide. Only 1000 people a year receive this treatment, it is not prescribed willy-nilly and is not recommended for mild to moderate depression. Patients will have already been offered alternative medications and psychotherapy before ECT is considered.
    Regarding your accusation that ECT “discriminates against highly vulnerable people”, women are indeed twice as likely to receive ECT than men, however this is because women are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital for depressive illness than men are. Depressed women in hospital are not more or less likely to receive ECT.
    In regards to the elderly, only 12% of ECT treatment was carried out on patients over 75 years old.
    A whole host of pharmacological therapies are available and readily used with patients with mental illness and I find it strange there is not nearly the same amount of uproar about the side effects of these. One example would be lithium of which side effects include: fine tremor, renal impairment, gastro-intestinal disorders, weight gain, oedema, increased thirst – this is without overdosing. If a patient who is mentally unwell decides to overdose then problems such as blurred vision, muscle weakness, central nervous system disturbances (i.e. ataxia, lack of coordination, coarse tremor, slurred speech), convulsions, renal failure, psychoses, coma or death can occur.
  • #6 Louise MacLellan / Tuesday 21 June, 2011 / 16:36 GMT

    I think that you have to base your opinions on open and honest information, not the masses of misinformation that is out there on the internet. It is also important to consider not only the risks we’ve been discussing, but the potential benefits. I know if it was myself or someone close to me, and all other avenues were exhausted, I would prefer to ‘risk’ having ECT treatment than risk committing suicide or starving myself to death.
  • #7 M Kelly / Wednesday 22 June, 2011 / 12:37 GMT

    Bringing it back to the film.....the film covered both ECT and the more specific Deep TMS. It wasn't an ECT marketing film but it did show positive outcomes for one ECT patient, one Deep TMS patient and a couple of patients who had more invasive surgery using probes into the brain to reduce the impacts of epilepsy and another brain disease.

    To me, the whole point of the film was pro-science, and pro-psychiatry but it didn't make implausaible claims about the success rates or long-term prognosis of the people involved. It wasn't ignoring some of the preliminary medications that would have been prescribed first, or a more psychological approach but it never claimed to - it never claimed to offer a comprehensive analysis of all approaches to dealing with brain problems. It was provocative and thought provoking, just what you want in a good science documentary. I'd still rather avoid ECT like the plague, but as the previous commenter said - if you are ever faced with the prospect of ECT with no alternatives you will probably consider it. But this film was not just about ECT and shows how new technology is being used to be less of a hammer, and more of a nut cracker or a knitting needle, focusing more on the specific areas of interest.

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