Elizabeth Ellis protests her forced electroshock treatment on Mind Freedom

It's been almost two years since we reported the tale of Ray Sanford, a Twin Cities man forced into electroconvulsive therapy by a court order. Now, another Minnesotan receiving ECT is publicly protesting her involuntary treatment.

Elizabeth Ellis, a 67-year-old retired teacher, says she's been shocked more than a dozen times against her will since last September.

In January, Ellis was part of a teleconference for Mind Freedom International, a patient-advocacy nonprofit based out of Eugene, Oregon. After introducing herself to the rest of the group during the call, Ellis announced she had been sentenced to involuntary ECT.

Mind Freedom quickly came to her defense. The site's advocates have started an online campaign for Ellis, urging readers to call Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and protest.

"It's all for one and one for all," says David Oaks, executive director for Mind Freedom. "We're speaking out, we're organizing numbers of people."

Mind Freedom also published the court documents sentencing Ellis to ECT. According to the documents, she's been diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder, a poorly understood condition where a patient experiences multiple symptoms of schizophrenia. An excerpt:

An excerpt from a court document, dated 11/22/2010, sentencing Ellis to involuntary ECT.
An excerpt from a court document, dated 11/22/2010, sentencing Ellis to involuntary ECT.
Via MindFreedom

ECT is controversial among physicians. Some say it's dangerous and shouldn't be used. Others say that it's effective, especially for patients who don't respond to milder treatment options.

In a 2008 interview with City Pages, Dr. Max Fink argued that the treatment has proved to be a viable option throughout history, which is why it made a comeback in conventional medicine during the 1980s:

"Many doctors had patients who had been given the best care in the major centers of the world with pills, but they still had patients who were very, very sick," says Dr. Fink. "So they turned to doctors who were using ECT devices, and one by one, hospital by hospital, ECT was reintroduced. Most of the reintroduction occurred at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s. By now, there aren't many psychiatric hospitals that don't have ECT."

Since his wife began receiving ECT, Robert Ellis says Elizabeth's behavior has changed significantly. The last time he spoke to her was a week ago. Since then, she has entered into a period of silence, he says.

"She hasn't talked to me since," he says. "She'll come to the phone and listen, and I can talk to her and tell her how much I love her and everything and she'll listen, and all of a sudden she'll hang up and that's it." Ellis is currently being held at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center, says Robert Ellis. She is not currently receiving ECT, but she has a court date scheduled later this month that will determine if she continues the controversial treatment.

Robert Ellis hopes the courts will put an end to the unwanted shock therapy, he says. "It's what Elizabeth wants."

For more on ECT in Minnesota, read our 2008 feature on Ray Sanford.

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