Evelyn Scogin presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Neurological Devices Panel examining the reclassification of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) devices on January 27, 2011. These are her remarks as published in the public record of the meeting.
My name is Evelyn Scogin. I’m here to tell you my story of assault from ECT so that you will understand the harm this machine does every time it is used. I came to psychiatry in 2004 at the age of 47. I was experiencing severe stressors at the time. So I naturally turned to a mental health professional for assistance and advice. I entered the psychiatric system at the time, trusting the psychiatrist as the health professional that would care for me in my time of need and perhaps help me solve my emotional issues. That is what I was led to believe.
I entered the hospital taking one psychiatric drug and left taking seven. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. At the urging of the psychiatrist, I gave up my hard-won career of teaching special needs deaf students. One month later, in January of 2005, I was in the hospital again because I was depressed.
My sister has informed me that the psychiatrist described ECT treatment as safe with only a loss of memory of the day of the treatment which would return shortly thereafter. I say my sister told me that because I have no recollection of any conversation with the psychiatrist concerning ECT. Never did it occur to me that anything that a so-called professional recommended would be harmful to me. I have no memory of the meeting or any events thereafter.
I was subjected to six months of numerous treatments. During my course of treatment, my emotional, physical, and cognitive health severely declined.
My family has informed me, because I have no recollection, that when I was released from the hospital after treatment, I could not be left alone as I would wander off somewhere and become lost. I often could not tell you my name and the names of any of my children. I lost not only my memories of the time I was subjected to this torture, but I was robbed of almost all memories from 2003, two years before the treatment, to 2008, three years after the treatment stopped. I was unable to converse or write coherently because my word recall was so limited, just like someone who had had a stroke. Taking care of many of my everyday needs was beyond me. In fact, one of my sisters had to take charge of my bank account. I could no longer drive or go to the mailbox alone.
I’ve fought long and hard over the last several years to recover from the effects of this abuse and rebuild my life. However, I will never recover the part of myself that was stolen from me which consisted of my memories. Because of these lasting effects, I have, as of yet, been unable to return to my chosen profession of teaching. I’m training for a new job, but it remains a struggle for me each and every day to learn new tasks.
The persons that believe ECT helps are psychiatrists. If you ask the patients, with some rare exception, they don’t feel that it helped them. ECT destroyed my life. You, this Panel, should not be a party to destroying minds with this dangerous device when there’s no evidence that it has any benefit. You should not permit these machines to create chaos in person’s memories without first demanding proof that it can truly help humans. It has never been proven to be effective at curing anything, never.
Some think approval from the FDA means a product is effective and that it is safe. These people have been betrayed. By limiting the evidence, by limiting the issues they want you to address, by excluding all questions of efficacy, the FDA is using this Panel as a instrument of that betrayal. By agreeing to membership in this Panel, it is your solemn duty to protect others. Downgrading these devices to Class II would be unforgivably irresponsible.