Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Electroshock Treatment Record

This is the first document in the Arkham Sanitarium Project that I find genuinely disturbing. There's something deeply unsettling about the contrast between the neatly delineated rows and columns of a simple paper form and the physical violence of the procedure, even in it's most well meaning therapeutic incarnation.

It goes without saying that electroshock therapy (ECT) is controversial to this day, but I once again want to point out that H.P. Lovecraft's portrayal of Arkham Sanitarium was almost unfailingly positive. This particular piece of prop paperwork should be used sparingly unless you're going for the darker, grittier version of the sanitarium developed by later authors.

Electroshock was rare in the classic era of the 20's and 30's and highly experimental. Real research into the procedure wouldn't happen until the mid 30's, and it wouldn't see widespread adoption until the 50's. A treatment plan would begin with low voltages, the administered shock steadily increased until the patient went into convulsions. After that each session aimed to produce a seizure of at least 15 seconds duration and patients could undergo multiple treatments in a single day.

Voltages ranged from 70-450 volts, duration from .10 to .20 of a second.

You can download the full PDF from Google Documents over here.

4 comments:

Crazy Raven Productions said...

Modern ECT is a lot less violent. It's actually considered the safest form of treatment for pregnant women with bipolar disorder.

alex kaeda said...

I'd like to say, project is simply amazing, and quite inspiring.

Propnomicon said...

@ Crazy Raven Productions

One of the reasons ECT is so polarizing is the mix of horrifying experiences and almost miraculous results. It's humbling to think how much we still don't understand about our own brains.

@ alex kaeda

Thank you for the very kind words. We're just about at the halfway point of the project and it's going well so far. Once the physical props are completed I'm looking forward to seeing how they're received.

roofless said...

I saw several ECT'S as a nursing student...At the time I had no idea the procedure was so common...I was stunned when they put me in a room to observe one. Paralytics and sedation are given so that there is no violent spasms....

To me it still was disturbing to watch because of the hum of the electricity...and I knew the act depolarized neurons by electrifying the brain.... I did note that for whatever reason the toes flex slightly in a regular pattern during the procedure. Fascinating and mildly horrifying at the same time....I cant imagine the old-school technique