January 27, 1997 

Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer Of Health 

Public Health Department City Hall, 7th Flr., East Tower 100 Queen St. W. Toronto, Ontario M5H 2N2 


Dear Dr. McKeown, 

I am writing to ask if you have written a letter or report to the Toronto Mayor's Committee on Aging (TMCA) re the use of electroconvulsive therapy (electroshock) on elderly people, especially older women in Ontario. I would appreciate you sending me a copy of whatever letter, memo or report you have written and sent to the committee as soon as possible. I also understand you have recent 'ECT' statistics from the Ministry of Health and a copy of my article published in NOW on March 28 of last year. 

Three years ago in 1994, I first brought this extremely alarming issue of electroshocking the elderly - A NEW FORM OF ELDER ABUSE - with supporting ECT statistics from the Ministry of Health to the attention of the TMCA. The health ministry's own shock statistics, which have never been published, continue to show that a disproportionately large number of ECT patients in Ontario are elderly (45%) and that approximately 70% are women. Shortly after my formal deputation, the Committee recommended writing the Minister of Health 'to inform her of the data on ECT, and the deep concern of the TMCA about the apparent misuse of this therapy in the treatment of older people.' (Final Report, April 11, 1994). However, the Committee never wrote or sent this letter. Last May, I again urged the Committee to speak out and take action. To date, no action - only referral of my request to the committee's 'working subcommittee' and its apparent request of October 28 last year that you report back to the Committee. Why the unreasonable delay and failure to act on this extremely urgent and public health issue? 

I am also writing to provide you with more information re electroshock particularly its many serious risks such as permanent memory loss, brain damage, and death. I am enclosing a copy of the testimony of Dr. Peter Sterling, a respected neuroscientist and outspoken critic of electroshock in the United States. Dr. Sterling's testimony delivered before the Texas State Legislature on April 17, 1995 deserves to be widely read, studied and discussed. I trust you will find this information, particularly the SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF BRAIN DAMAGE INCLUDING PERMANENT OR 'ACCUMULATING MEMORY LOSS' briefly summarized by Dr, Sterling, relevant and important. You may contact Dr. Sterling at this address: PETER STERLING, Ph.D., ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR (NEUROBIOLOGY), DEPARTMENT OF ANATOMY, SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, PHILADELPHIA, PA 19174 USA.

I am also enclosing a complementary copy of my recently compiled list of anti-shock references and organizations which includes very important critiques by Dr. Peter Breggin, Leonard Roy Frank, Douglas Cameron, and Sandra Boodman's excellent article in THE WASHINGTON POST - essential reading for anyone seriously interested in electroshock. Feel free to copy and distribute this list to interested individuals. including your staff and members of the Board of Health. My most recent article, 'Electroshocking the Elderly: Another Psychiatric Abuse' should be published next month in CHANGES: AN INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY. I hope you read it. 

Together with thousands of other shock survivors and other critics of psychiatry, I believe electroconvulsive therapy - more accurately called ELECTROCONVULSIVE BRAINWASHING - is an inherently destructive, brain-disabling, and unethical psychiatric procedure which is unfortunately still legal. ELECTROCONVULSIVE BRAINWASHING IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY which must be abolished. Its continuing and growing use on physically frail and highly vulnerable elderly people is particularly heinous, outrageous, shameful, and morally offensive - A NEW FORM OF ELDER ABUSE which deserves to be publicly and immediately exposed, condemned and outlawed. I look forward to your reply. 


Don Weitz 

Toronto, Ontario