A special educations school in the state of Massachusetts has been allowed by the state authorities to continue with electric shock treatment to its students for another year, though under certain stringent conditions.
The Judge Rotenberg Educational Center had come under severe criticism after it was discovered that two emotionally disturbed inmates were wrongly given dozens of shocks after a prank call. Seven persons were sacked over the incident.
On Aug. 26, a caller posed as a supervisor and ordered the punishments for the two teenagers, 16 and 19, because he said they had misbehaved.
The teens were awakened in the middle of the night and given the shock treatments, at times while their legs and arms were bound. One teen received 77 shocks and the other received 29. One was treated for two first-degree burns.
A report released last week by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care found that the staff made multiple mistakes when they followed the prank caller's directions.
The report said six staffers at the centre had reason to doubt the orders to administer the shocks, but did nothing to stop it.
The six and a video surveillance worker on duty that night were fired on Oct. 1.
The caller said he was ordering the punishments because the teens had misbehaved earlier in the evening. But none of the staffers had witnessed any problems. The report said the caller was a former resident of the center with knowledge of its operations. Police are looking into filing criminal charges, news agency AP reports.
The incident in renewed calls by school critics for the state to ban the shock treatments. But state officials said the parents of some residents defend the school and its methods.
Now the Office of Health and Human Services says while the Centre was free to continue to use the shock treatment, it must also prove it uses shock treatments only for the most dangerous and self-destructive behaviors, and also show that the treatments reduce those behaviors.
A procedure pioneered in the 1930s that seemed on the edge of extinction just a generation ago is being performed today at medical centers large and small, another report states.
More than 100,000 Americans a year get Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for ailments ranging from mania to catatonia, with 10 to 20 times that many worldwide. Electroconvulsive therapy is now as ordinary as hysterectomy and twice as common as knee replacement surgery.
How one of the most reviled psychiatric procedures is fast becoming one of its mainstays is an astounding yet untold chapter of American medical history. It is a narrative that begins with an epidemic of mental illness that has stubbornly resisted a cure, and a handful of doctors who have equally stubbornly refused to give up on a remedy that most had banished as barbaric. Researchers still have not filled in the puzzle of how or why ECT provides relief, although the proof is compelling that it does, faster and more surely than drugs or talk therapy.
Questions also remain about the price that shock patients pay in memories lost, in rare cases permanently, and whether such risks can be minimized or eliminated entirely. The rise, fall, and rise again of ECT thus remains an epic without an ending, as practitioners and potential patients alike wait to see if hopes for success are sustained and it can come back all the way.
Kitty Dukakis, the wife of former presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis, for instance, battled depression, alcoholism and addictions for more than 25 years.
In her book titled Shock, she says ECT is a "last resort" treatment, but one that she says saved her life.