What’s the rush here?

F.D.A. is Studying the Risk of Electroshock Devices

Extract below from the New York Times

“It’s a treatment for the most severe form of depression,” Dr. Kellner said. “It can really be life-saving.” … The treatment costs $1,000 to $2,500 a session, and typically involves three sessions a week for two to four weeks, Dr. Kellner said. The fee includes the services of a psychiatrist and anesthesiologist. The equipment itself costs about $15,000 and may last years.

Hmm. When doctors like Dr. Kellner say electroshock treats the most severe form of depression, this raises questions with me and it should raise questions with others. When I think of someone suffering from “the most severe form of depression” it brings to mind someone who has a long history of depression who is perhaps suicidal. This person has exhausted all other forms of treatment and has discussed the pros and cons of electroshock at length with their doctor.

Here’s a more likely scenario for administering electroshock, based on what happened to us. A young man (e.g. Chris) is admitted to hospital for first episode psychosis. He does not have a history of depression. He is put on respirdal or some other antipychotic along with a tranquillizer. He, at some point within a short time of being admitted, falls into a psychic slump and begins to ask existential questions. Maybe he is told, like Chris was, that he can resume his classes while checking in at night to the hospital. He quickly figures out he can’t cope with classes, leading to feeling, well, depressed. Perhaps his family is an ocean away (as we were) and suddenly, life begins to really look black. He refuses to eat. The doctors call the parents and say that they will administer electroshock if things don’t improve. Being clueless about electroshock, they readily agree. Nobody informs the parents that electroshock is still considered controversial.

All of this happened within a month of Chris entering the hospital with no history of depression. One month! Not a lifetime of struggling to cope with the worst of depression. Situational depression I would call Chris’s case. As it happened, somebody spoke to him and he perked up enough to avoid electroshock. What was also avoided was the insurance bill, which, according to this article, would have run anywhere between $6,000 and $20,000. For what? For something that human concern could have cleared up for free?