Friday, July 13, 2007

New York Court Approves Electric Shock Against a Woman's Will

In a 7/2 decision, the New York Court of Appeals has turned down the appeal of Simone D., who had sued not to be put through electroschock again. According to the Bazelon Center’s report, Simone D., who is Hispanic, “had already received 148 ECT treatments over 12 years in the hospital. The hospital sought permission to administer another 30 treatments against Simone’s will.”

From the majority opinion:

At a hearing held on the petition, Dr. Ella Brodsky, a licensed psychiatrist and the person who administers the ECT at Creedmoor, testified that the appellant suffers from a “major depressive disorder, severe, with chronic features” and was incapable of making decisions regarding her own treatment. In fact, Dr. Brodsky asserted that during a meeting to discuss treatment, at which the appellant, her Spanish-speaking attorney, Dr. Brodsky, and the treatment team were present, the appellant refused to respond or even make eye contact.

A couple of points (for more, see here and here):

1. Electroshock, or ECT, Has No Proven Benefits.

For more information about ECT and it effects, read the paper "Understanding and Ending ECT: A Feminist Imperative" by academic and psychotherapist Dr. Bonnie Burstow.

2. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that ECT causes permanent damage to the brain

3. Most Electroshock patients (between two-thirds and three-quarters of patients) are elderly women.

According to the activist website, ECT:

1) This is a legacy of patriarchy, where women continue to be coerced, overtly or subtly into psychiatric treatment.
2) This is also a legacy of sexism, where “’masculine“ stoicism is valued and feminine” qualities such as emotional expression are classified as psychopathological. It is also related to sexism in that social and economic inequality is still a big factor in our society, and understandable stress reactions, sadness and confusion are
interpreted as “symptoms of mental illness.”
3) Women, compared to men, are expected to be passive, and they may be punished or silenced for speaking out and complaining. When a woman is being considered for electroshock, one should ask, “What is important that she not remember and tell about?” Or “What is it that the others do not want to hear or look at?” Often it is abuse, always it is difficult or disruptive conduct that makes others feel uncomfortable or threatened.
4) Women are on average more open to getting help than men. In our psychiatric system, it is assumed that human problems and crises are due to biologically or genetically based “mental illnesses.” The primary treatment is psychotropic drugs, so women reaching for help get drugs, these drugs often do not help or actually worsen their situation; hence, the backup treatment of electroshock is brought into play.
5) Elderly women often cannot handle psychotropic drugs because of aging and infirmity, so are considered prime candidates for electroshock.
6) Women of perimenopausal may be experiencing depressive symptoms due to undiagnosed hormonal or endocrine changes.

4. Simone G. is a native Spanish speaker, but treatment by a Spanish-speaking therapist was tried “for only a few weeks.” Simone G., through her lawyer, has requested that Spanish-speaking theray be resumed instead of ECT, but this request has been refused.

5. What you can do to help.

Reclusive Leftist has provided the following contact information for four New York politicians who can be emailed, faxed or called asking them to intervene on behalf of Simone G.

** Gov. Eliot Spitzer:Complete the web form at: Phone: (518) 474-8390. Fax: 518-474-1513.

** Lieutenant Gov. David Paterson:He is legally blind and has been charged by the Governor with dealing with disability issues.Complete the web form at: (518) 474-4623. Fax: (518) 486-4170

** Office of Mental Health Commissioner Michael Hogan:Phone: (518) 474-4403. Fax: (518) 474-2149.

** Peter M. Rivera, Chair, New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities:Email: Phone: (718) 931-2620. Write: 1973 Westchester Avenue; Bronx, NY 10462 USA.

The Wittenberg Center also has some sample comment text you might use and some more background on Simone D.’s case.