David Healy


A History of Shock Therapy

Written by Edward Shorter and David Healy

The electroshock story is one of the great unknown stories of modern medicine. Considered by many to be the penicillin for the severe mentally ill, it fell out of favor in the 1960s for curious, cultural reasons.

Movies had a lot to do with its demise, notably the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Only recently is shock therapy experiencing a comeback.

This book is appealing on three levels: it is a lively and evocative social history from the 1930s to today, including recent experiments in Deep Brain Stimulation. It is illuminating on the science of the brain in mental illness. And it is a work of advocacy which will influence thinking about shock therapy.

One of the most interesting aspects in the history of medicine and culture is how and why such an effective treatment fell out of favor when there was nothing substantially better to replace it. Shock therapy is still stigmatized in certain quarters. This book will do much to change that.

David Healy, who studied in University College Dublin and the University of Cambridge in England, is currently a Professor of Psychological Medicine in Cardiff University, Wales, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto. He is the author of 15 books, including The Antidepressant Era and The Creation of Psychopharmacology from Harvard University Press, and The Psychopharmacologists Volumes 1-3 and Let them Eat Prozac from New York University Press.

David Healy has gained public profile through his activity as a expert witness in homicide and suicide trials involving SSRI drugs, and in bringing these problems to the attention of American and British regulators. To the ire of the pharmaceudical companies, he has raised awareness of how they market drugs by marketing diseases and co-opt academic opinion-leaders by ghostwriting their articles.