Finalist in the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2009 Book Award
Mechanisms and standards exist to safeguard the health and welfare of the patient, but for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)—used to treat depression and other mental illnesses—such approval methods have failed. Prescribed to thousands over the years, public relations as opposed to medical trials have paved the way for this popular yet dangerous and controversial treatment option.
Doctors of Deception is a revealing history of ECT (or shock therapy) in the United States, told here for the first time. Through the examination of court records, medical data, FDA reports, industry claims, her own experience as a patient of shock therapy, and the stories of others, Andre exposes tactics used by the industry to promote ECT as a responsible treatment when all the scientific evidence suggested otherwise.
As early as the 1940s, scientific literature began reporting incidences of human and animal brain damage resulting from ECT. Despite practitioner modifications, deleterious effects on memory and cognition persisted. Rather than discontinue use of ECT, the $5-billion-per-year shock industry crafted a public relations campaign to improve ECT’s image. During the 1970s and 1980s, psychiatry’s PR efforts misled the government, the public, and the media into believing that ECT had made a comeback and was safe.
Andre carefully intertwines stories of ECT survivors and activists with legal, ethical, and scientific arguments to address issues of patient rights and psychiatric treatment. Echoing current debates about the use of psychopharmaceutical interventions shown to have debilitating side-effects, she candidly presents ECT as a problematic therapy demanding greater scrutiny, tighter control, and full disclosure about its long-term cognitive effects.
"This book is absolutely fascinating and extraordinarily well-written. It is a major contribution to the current literature."
—Michael Perlin, Professor of Law, New York Law School
"Linda Andre's book is both a powerful memoir of her own experience as an ECT 'patient' and a documented account of the underbelly of the 'shock industry.' It raises profound questions about ECT that both psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health—if they want to be honest with the American public—desperately need to address."
—Robert Whitaker, author of Mad in America
"For many years, activist and writer Linda Andre has been forcefully and cogently examining the reigning (and mostly unchallenged) professed claims and practices of our medical establishment's wizards of shock therapy. In this thoroughly-researched, pathbreaking, and essential book, the author undraws the curtains that have for too long cloaked these claims, practices, and wizards. It is a work of courage, heart, and brains.
—Jonathan Cott, Author of On the Sea of Memory: A Journey from Forgetting to Remembering
"This superb study documents a development that is an ongoing controversy in the field of psychiatry: electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and the appropriateness of using it to treat a host of conditions. Weaving her own, often poignant, experiences with ECT into the narrative, Andre contends that ECT proponents/practitioners undercut informed consent through systemic deceit, including failure to reveal negative consequences. The audience for this excellent resource should include those who make mental health policy. Highly recommended."
"This book is brilliant analysis. It is successful on many levels, including its most important task: presenting an overview of the history, safety and efficacy of electro-convulsive therapy. The book is also a masterpiece of scientific writing. Through her extensive personal and professional research, Andre explained things I had already known about ECT, but with additional clinical facts and exceptional insight. She detailed the people and places that have formed the basis for the historical foundations of ECT at the same time that she described the politics and organizations that have continued to promote ECT as a safe and effective modality."
—Stefan Kruszewski MD, International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine
"Andre provides a useful contrast to the claims made in Edward Shorter and David Healy's recent paean to ECT and the men who were instrumental in its development, and offers a potentially devastating critique of both ECT and the modern American psychiatric profession."
—Social History of Medicine
"Doctors of Deception is a very interesting read, offers a detailed history of ECT's use, and immersion into one of psychology's oldest debates."
—Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal
"Author and activist Linda Andre has written a marvelously lucid and ably documented book that not only recounts her experiences and that of many others with electroshock, but mounts a systematic assault on the biomedical industrial complex and the willful distortions that many of its actors and servants engage in to maintain biomedical dominance and accrue benefits to themselves. In chapter after devastating chapter, Doctors of Deception describes, probes, analyzes, exposes, and deconstructs the entire electroshock industry."
—The Journal of Mind and Behavior
Author / Editor Bio
Linda Andre is a writer, activist, and the director of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry. Since receiving ECT in the early 1980s, she has been an advocate for the human and civil rights of psychiatrically labelled people, particularly the right to truthful informed consent. She has been interviewed by numerous publications and media such as 20/20, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.