Evidence Based Practice


California Superior Court Judge rules patient deceived.
Victim says, "I know I am not the only one."

LOS ANGELES: Atze Akkerman was a devoted husband, father and professional musician who after receiving electroshock (shock treatment) could no longer remember his wife of 20 years, his children, or how to play music.  In the five years since receiving the brutal treatment, his memory has not returned.  Akkerman and his wife filed suit against Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Johnson, who performed the shock, claiming they were negligent and had deceived Mr. Akkerman by withholding from him the dangers of the treatment and misrepresenting that it was "safe and effective."

Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Denise deBellefeuille agreed.  The judge ruled that a psychiatrist and a psychiatric hospital deceived its patients by failing to tell them that electroconvulsive therapy (or ECT) - better known as shock treatment - causes irreversible memory loss, and prohibited the hospital from giving shock treatments. The court ordered that the hospital must  "immediately cease providing ECT to patients, and advise its attending physicians that the hospital has lost the right to perform such treatment."

The court also ruled psychiatrist Joseph Johnson had violated the California consumer fraud statutes.  Johnson (who has performed shock treatment for over 20 years), admitted that neither he nor anyone else understands how shock treatment works, and that the consent form Johnson provided to patients was "decidedly misleading in a critical regard," concerning the permanency of memory loss.

The Akkerman's attorney, Kendrick Moxon stated,  "The psychiatrist who shocked Mr. Akkerman simply betrayed a patient who came to him for help.  He admitted that the so-called treatment couldn't cure anything. Why is shock treatment still being done at all?  Because the psychiatric community is lying to the patients that come to it for help."

Moxon says that psychiatrists minimize the seriousness of the memory loss and other dangerous side effects of this barbaric treatment, and essentially dupe their patients into consent.

Expert witnesses who testified during the 6-week trial, said shock treatment is well known to cause permanent, irreversible memory loss.  "No one who knew what they were getting into would ever agree to this damaging treatment.  It destroys memory, and creates chaos in the lives of the patients who are betrayed, " said one expert.

The Court noted that -Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital argued that it was the psychiatrist's responsibility to provide informed consent to the patient.  The court disagreed, finding the argument "disingenuous" because the hospital and psychiatrist work in concert.  The Court stated, "Here the hospital undertook a duty and cannot pass the buck."

Contrary to psychiatrists' assertions that shock treatment is "safe and effective" patients who have had the treatment tell a different story-if they can remember it.  Many patients report loss of huge volumes of their memories, their childhood, even their own children.  Patients often report of 5, 10, and 20 years of memory being wiped out.

Moxon asserts, "Psychiatrists pretend shock treatment is no longer like the violent bone breaking practice of the past, as portrayed in enduring images of "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest."  They are lying.  There is no difference in what happens to the brain during shock treatment in 1954 or 2004.  The violence exerted on the brain is exactly the same."

In fact, the result to patients is identical.   Like Akkerman, another more notable figure suffered the same loss, the ability to execute his art.  In 1961, after receiving shock treatments, Nobel Prize winning author Ernest Hemingway noted, "What is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business?  It was a brilliant cure, but we lost the patient."  No longer able to write, Hemingway committed suicide.

Akkerman chose to fight back, and turn his ordeal into a crusade. "I am hopeful that this case may serve to help others," he says, "I was lied to, and I know I am not the only one."