In the News: ECT worse than waterboarding??

Give me a f-ing break.

I came across an AP story from three days ago about a Minnesota patient who wants to refuse regular ECT. I’ve pasted the first portion of the article, written by Steve Karnowski, below:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The court order authorizing electroshock treatments for Ray Sandford says that when he arrived at a psychiatric hospital early last year, he was “grossly psychotic” and violent toward staff and other patients.

Sandford, who has been declared legally incompetent, said he agreed to the treatments at first, but after more than 40 of them he finds it hard to remember names and other things. His bipolar disorder is under control, he says, and he should have the right to say no.

The court disagrees, but advocates of the mentally ill who call themselves the “mad pride” movement have rallied to his defense.

“This is worse than waterboarding,” said David Oaks, executive director of MindFreedom International, who led about two dozen people in a rally at the Minnesota Capitol this month to draw attention to Sandford’s case.

“Offer somebody the choice between waterboarding or forced electroshock and a lot of our people who know what it is will say waterboarding,” Oaks said.

Sandford’s caregivers persuaded a judge to order electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) plus a combination of anti-psychotic drugs.

“I just don’t like the idea of them being able to force these treatments,” said Sandford, 55, who has been in and out of mental hospitals for nearly four decades. Read the rest of the article.

I refrain from commenting on the part about mandated ECT. However, what I have an issue with is this organization MindFreedom International‘s comparison of electroconvulsive therapy to waterboarding. I know it’s an “In” thing to be talking about waterboarding, and while I’ve never been waterboarded, I do know what it is like to go through 15 treatments of ECT. And if these people would rather be waterboarded, that’s their choice. However, I can tell you from experience that there is nothing torturous about the facilitation of ECT. This medical procedure doesn’t even involve cutting open a body part. I’d like to know if this executive director’s even been waterboarded. He better be speaking from experience. Now, a repeated open-heart surgery. That would be torture. Another point: the goal of ECT (regardless of the outcome) is for the person to become better. From last I heard about waterboarding, people aren’t getting this procedure because they’re going to be better people for it.

The “Mad Pride” movement includes “groups and individuals that seek not only an end to forced treatment, but to redefine their conditions as something to be respected instead of diseases to be suppressed.” To an extent, I can understand and respect their philosophy. Though the author describe those involved in the “Mad Pride” movement as advocates for the mentally ill, what kind of advocacy is it when a group tries to take away people’s right to receive certain forms of treatment? (They are adamantly against ECT as treatment.) Also, by their wanting “respect” for their illness, they essentially want to be defined by whatever dianoses they’ve been given (and by extension, all of their behaviors condoned). There are societal rules that make certain actions undesirable to the public, but there are also a set of behaviors that are not condoned simply because others find it odd; it’s because they may actually be harmful to the individual and to to others! Though having bipolar disorder has taught me a lot of thing I would’ve otherwise never learned, no illness should have to become your sole source of pride.

I’m glad to see that there are people who want to fight for the rights of the mentally ill, but their rhetoric places even more unneeded agony to those who are considering ECT. There are those who will certainly die if they do not have ECT. If they want to help others like them, then, fight for this person’s right to make his own treatment decisions, not demean the treatment itself.

This argument may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s like being pro-choice. You can be pro-choice but still not like abortion. In the end, it’s the patient’s right to choose.

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