“Recent statistics obtained by CCHR show that in several U.S. states, on average 63.5 percent of the targeted ECT population between 2013 and 2015 were women.”
By CCHR Intternational
The Mental Health Industry Watchdog
February 9, 2017
Carrie Fisher and Wendy Mileson survived shock treatment. Carrie revered it. Wendy didn’t. She underwent it the same year that Fisher made her film debut in Shampoo and two years before Star Wars made history. Before her tragic death on 27 December 2016, Carrie Fisher was recognized as a mental health advocate. So is Mileson, but she warns against the use of electric shock—up to 460 volts of electricity through the brain—and calls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban it. She wants other women to do the same—concerned by recent statistics obtained by the mental health watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). These show that in several U.S. states, children aged five or younger have been given ECT and on average 63.5 percent of the targeted ECT population between 2013 and 2015 were women and nearly 15 percent overall were the elderly—65 years of age and older.
Mileson watched Fisher’s movies and like others, admires her iconic career and her Hollywood royalty. In fact, movies were cathartic during Mileson’s teen years which, unlike the shock “therapy” given her, had no side effects. Mileson was prescribed ECT for teenage angst. She doesn’t believe that losing your memory of both good and bad life events caused by the violence of the electricity sent searing through your brain is good for you. She reported her story to CCHR, which was used to help get laws that increased rights to refuse ECT, and wants others to do the same.
Jonathon Emord, a U.S. Constitutional attorney writing in The Washington Times has reviewed the evidence of damage caused by ECT and lack of clinical trials proving its efficacy and says: “Instead of bowing to industry and expanding use of this barbaric ‘treatment,’ FDA should ban ECT altogether,” he said.
The FDA is currently determining whether to lower the risk category of the ECT device to make it more widely available, including to children. Yet the World Health Organization says: “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation.”
Adds Mileson: “An anesthetic is supposed to render you unconsciousness to block the obvious pain of electricity surging through your body. Most people only remember the terrible emotional and memory blunting that follows ECT. But decades later, I can still vividly remember this assault. And that was at a time when so-called ‘new and improved’ ECT was touted as causing fewer adverse effects.”
Later, as an advocate for patient rights, Mileson researched dozens of other cases who were jolted out of a drugged coma by the force of the ECT and described the experience of this in court testimony as:
- “Like someone trying to twist my head…I remember screaming out at one stage about the cruelty I was receiving….”
- “…[I]t felt like all the telegraph wires came down on the top of my head and a big blue flash all around me.”
- “The feeling was one of pain from the top of your head to the tip of your toes…. It was like someone hit you with a sledgehammer, wham, and you exploded. It was so bad that [I] thought, ‘These bastards are trying to kill me.'”
Not one week had passed after Fisher’s death before articles posted online and in media used her death to advocate for ECT without discussing the damage that millions have experienced from it. This is an issue of informed consent rights and having only Fisher’s side of the ECT story was an injustice, Mileson says. Consider other celebrity views:
- Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was incarcerated in a psychiatric institution and given 20 electroshocks, subsequently committing suicide. He stated: “What these shock doctors don’t know is about writers…what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient….”
- Psychiatrists gave Lou Reed, rock icon from The Velvet Underground, ECT trying to “cure” his homosexual tendencies in the 1970s. This is documented in his song “Kill Your Sons”: “All your two-bit psychiatrists are giving you electroshock. They said they’d let you live at home with mom and dad, instead of mental hospitals. But every time you tried to read a book, you couldn’t get to page seventeen, ‘cos you forgot where you were, so you couldn’t even read.” His short term memory was permanently damaged.
- Fleetwood Mac founder and guitar great, Peter Green, was institutionalized following extensive LSD use and given ECT. He said the long-term effects of psychiatric drugs and electroconvulsive therapy “made my head feel like a coconut and wiped out my memory.” He spent about 10 years dozing, asleep, or eating too much—all things, he said, were side effects of the treatment.
Fisher’s death certificate lists her cause of death as “cardiac arrest.” Unexplained is whether or not the years of electroshock and psychotropic drugs that can cause physical damage may have had an influence on this. That would have been helpful to know, Mileson says, especially when so many women aged 60 and older and the elderly are at risk of receiving it.
Mileson asserts, “Personally, I think electroshock should go the same way as The Torture Rack. Prohibit it. Even the United Nations Committee on Torture defines ECT without consent as torture. There should be no laws that can force this on any individual. And the FDA should not even be considering reducing its risk category.”
She urges anyone who has suffered damage from receiving ECT to report this to CCHR, as she did. You can submit a report to CCHR here.
To find out more about CCHR, click here.
 WHO RESOURCE BOOK ON MENTAL HEALTH, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LEGISLATION 2005.
 Leonard Roy Frank, The History of Shock Treatment (1978), p. 70.
 http://ultimateclassicrock.com/36-years-ago-fleetwood-mac-founder-peter-green-arrested-for-pulling-shotgun-on-his-accountant/; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2157409/Psychosis-sex-cults-suicide-curse-Fleetwood-Mac-guitarists.html.