I vividly remember the day Tim’s psychiatrist uttered those three little letters. ECT. Tim’s psychosis and depression had proven to be resistant to a litany of mood stabilizers and atypical anti-psychotics, and Dr. D had, by his admission, run out of ideas. Tom, Dr. D and I collectively mulled over two options, both scary. Clozaril, a medication with five black box warnings, so toxic that it requires patients have weekly blood tests with results registered with the FDA, or running electricity through his brain until he seizes. Neither was very palatable. If you’ve read my blog before you know we chose Clozaril because, frankly, I couldn’t stomach the thought of a procedure that might lower Tim’s cognitive levels lower than they already were.
ECT was back in the news yesterday. A New York Times article reported that the FDA is considering lowering the status of ECT from a high risk procedure to a medium risk procedure. It’s true, that in the last decade or so, ECT has begun to be accepted. No longer does the term conjure up images of Jack Nicholson staging a coup against an oppressive nurse. I know adults who have had the procedure. Carrie Fisher wrote a book about her experiences with it. Downgrading it to a medium risk procedure means that it has the same rating as a syringe or a surgical instrument. It could potentially be done in a doctor’s office. Something about that just scares the bejeezus out of me. You can’t even get a blood test at my doctor’s office – I have to go to a lab. Do I really want a doctor to have a little shock box in the back room? Not so much. Especially because the article says the largest growing population of patients receiving ECT are elderly women – mostly because it’s covered by Medicare as a treatment for depression.
I’m not saying that ECT can’t be effective. I really don’t know. I just don’t feel comfortable with the FDA, the agency that is supposed to protect us from procedures and devices and medications that could be dangerous, considering it’s electricity, wired up to someone’s brain. I just can’t see that having the same level of risk as the syringe the doctor uses to give me my flu shot.
There will be public hearings and