Watts Up

More New Yorkers Getting Zapped by Court-Ordered Electroshock

"What's happening is that the hospitals are prematurely jumping to ECT," he adds. "All in the name of healing, they're harming."

Anne Krauss and other activists are angry that psychotherapy isn't a higher priority for the treatment of depression. "Psychotherapy is buried because there's no major corporate money to be made from it," says Krauss. "It's not quantifiable, and there's no quality control. Drugs you can measure."

Influence can be measured, too. At the hearings, the burden is on the hospitals to prove their cases, but they're usually much better prepared than the patients and families against whom they're squaring off. "In the contested cases," says Feld, "the facility comes in with an expert, a doctor. We don't have the resources to do that."

Feld says the hospitals are "quick to find the person incapacitated." He adds, "I think there's some callousness there, not a studied approach."

A more measured way of handling Adam Szyszko might have spared him even the single shock treatment he got. His sister Anna says Adam was a college student when he "started getting a little weird" and dropped out of school three years ago. He descended into what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Last September, she says, he was wandering around his parents' neighborhood early one morning. "He was very confused, and he was knocking heavily on a neighbor's door," she recalls. "The neighbor didn't recognize him and called police. When they came, he was in front of our house, and my mom came out. The police started asking him questions. My mom said he hadn't been taking his medication. When they heard that, they took him in. I don't think they had to do it. He has never hurt anyone. And our neighbor felt bad that he had called the police."

Adam was taken to Pilgrim, where, Anna says, he went into shock from medication and was transferred to Southside Hospital for medical treatment. Against the family's wishes, he was transferred back to Pilgrim and scheduled for shock treatment. After Adam was zapped in December, the family managed to halt further shock treatments, at least temporarily. They're awaiting a judge's ruling on Adam's fate.

In the meantime, Anna Szyszko has signed up to testify at Friday's hearing.

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