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National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery | NCMHR

National Mental Health Coalition Calls "Dr. Oz" Electroshock Show One-Sided

Coalition Recommends Balanced Coverage of Controversial Intervention

[Press Release – January 26, 2012]

WASHINGTON, DC (1/26/12) - The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) calls upon the producers of "The Dr. Oz Show" to provide balanced and truthful coverage of the risks of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which grand mal seizures are electrically induced, usually to treat severe depression.

"We are surprised that Dr. Oz would air such a one-sided show," says NCMHR director Lauren Spiro, "as ECT remains one of the most controversial psychiatric practices."

"Shock survivors" and many other mental health advocates assert that ECT's disabling effects - including permanent memory loss and cognitive deficits - outweigh possible benefits, and call for potential ECT recipients to be told the risks so they can make an informed choice.

These risks have been confirmed by researchers such as Dr. Harold Sackeim, a well-known proponent of ECT, whose 2007 study in Neuropsychopharmacology concludes: "this study provides the first evidence in a large, prospective sample that adverse cognitive effects can persist for an extended period."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to classify ECT equipment in its high-risk Class III category despite repeated pressure from ECT equipment manufacturers to re-classify it into the lower-risk Class II.

ECT survivors speak openly about the devastating effects of ECT. In her acclaimed book "Doctors of Deception: What They Don't Want You to Know About Shock Treatment," Linda Andre wrote, "Eventually you realize that years of your life have been erased, never to return. Worse, you find that your daily memory and mental abilities aren't what they were before."

"The research is clear: ECT causes closed head injury, temporary euphoria, then return of depression but with enduring memory loss," says Dr. Daniel B. Fisher, psychiatrist and NCMHR board member. Among the show's false claims are that less electricity is used in unilateral ECT. "In reality," Dr. Fisher said, "unilateral ECT requires more electricity." Calling the show's claim of 80 percent effectiveness "vastly exaggerated," Dr. Fisher pointed out that, while many may experience a lifting of depression, this is only temporary, but the disabling side effects are permanent. In addition, many ECT recipients say their depression was exacerbated by the stress associated with their ECT-related cognitive disabilities.

Numerous shock recipients have posted comments on the show's website protesting the show's one-sidedness. Sonia Weaver wrote: "I believed the doctors who told me the procedure was safe and effective and am left with major memory loss and permanent cognitive deficits. Those of us who have been damaged by ECT deserve to have our voices heard as well."

"We recommend more media coverage of innovative, non-invasive, cost-effective mental health interventions, including 'peer-run services' delivered by people who have recovered from severe mental health issues," says Lauren Spiro, who herself was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

NCMHR comprises 32 statewide organizations of individuals in recovery from mental health conditions.