A very long article with some background. Here are a couple of excerpts:
“When you induce a grand mal convulsion by sending 100-plus volts of electricity in the brain, you’re going to create damage,” says Dr. John Breeding, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist and self-described ECT abolitionist. “This is most easily seen with memory loss that many patients experience. You’re talking major voltage directly into the temporal lobes of the brain. And the data is very clear that there’s close to a 100 percent relapse rate, which means patients have to keep coming back and suffer further brain damage. This is referred to as ‘maintenance ECT,’ rather than as a failed treatment, which is what it really is.”
Even more controversial is the practice of forced, court-ordered electroconvulsive treatment. Neither the American Psychiatric Association nor activist groups have estimates on how many Americans undergo forced ECT annually, but there were 41 cases in Hennepin County last year.
Ray Sandford was one of them. But unlike the others, he’s not going quietly, opting instead to take his fight to the public arena. A small army of mental-health activists has now taken up a national-scale PR campaign on his behalf, painting him as something of a real-life R.P. McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“This case is particularly egregious,” says Dr. Breeding. “Ray Sandford was really the first I heard of somebody being shocked on an outpatient basis.”….
….As director of MindFreedom International, a coalition of self-described “mental human rights organizations” advocating what they call “a nonviolent revolution in mental health care,” Oaks has fielded his share of strange calls. But Oaks had never heard a story like this before.
“My name is Ray Sandford,” said the man on the phone. “I live in a group home in suburban Minneapolis. I’m getting electroshock treatment against my will. What do I do?”
Oaks dialed Lutheran Social Services to confirm the story. A worker familiar with Sandford’s case verified that Sandford was indeed receiving court-ordered electroshock treatments. A copy of the court order confirmed it.
“I get calls all the time from people who are frightened, who are being pushed around and bullied by the mental health system,” says Oaks. “But this guy has made sense the whole time. His was an extremely human response: ‘I don’t want it.'”
Taking up the cause, MindFreedom launched an online Campaign for Ray, with a website detailing Sandford’s predicament. Oaks compiled a list of caretakers associated with Sandford—from doctors to judges to lawyers—along with their contact information, encouraging visitors to call them and demand they put an end to the treatment. In addition, MindFreedom sent out mass emails to its network of activists who, in turn, inundated the governor’s office with phone calls.