A Dukakis Call For Electroshock Therapy

Email a Friend
Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, smile as they read letters between John Adams and his wife, Abigail, during a Massachusetts Historical Society program at Faneuil Hall in Boston. (Elise Amendola/AP)

With guest host Jane Clayson.

Shocking the brain to treat depression. Does it work? Former presidential candidate Mike Dukakis and his wife Kitty say it saved her life. They join us.

Electroconvulsive therapy gets a bad rap.  Remember that scary Nurse Ratchet in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?” But ECT can be an effective treatment for depression. Kitty Dukakis says it saved her life. She’s out on the hustings promoting the treatment. So is her husband, Michael, the former Presidential candidate. This hour On Point: Kitty and Mike Dukakis make the case for electroconvulsive therapy.


Kitty Dukakis, electroconvulsive therapy advocate and patient. Co-author, with Larry Tye, of the book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.” Also author of “Now You Know.”

Gov. Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts. 1988 Democratic Presidential nominee. Professor of political science at Northeastern University and visiting professor of public affairs at UCLA.

Dr. Charles Welch, psychiatrist at McLean Hosptial. Kitty Dukakis is one of his patients.

From The Reading List

New York Times: Kitty Dukakis, a Beneficiary of Electroshock Therapy, Emerges as Its Evangelist — “Electroconvulsive therapy is not a one-and-done procedure. Mrs. Dukakis, 80, still receives maintenance treatment every seven or eight weeks. She said that she had minor memory lapses but that the treatment had banished her demons and that she no longer drank, smoked or took antidepressants.”

The Atlantic: The Return of Electroshock Therapy — “In the popular imagination, ECT—the application to the scalp of an electrical current strong enough to induce a brief seizure—is an archaic practice that might as well be relegated to a museum collection. But according to Lisanby and other leading researchers, the modern version of ECT, far from outmoded, is the most effective therapy available for severe, treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder (and even sometimes, when deployed early enough, schizophrenia).”

POLITICO Magazine: Michael Dukakis’ Final Campaign — “While her husband was in public office, the almost-First Lady was reluctant to share her battle with substance abuse and depression. But in recent years, it is a mantle that Kitty and Michael have actively sought out. Today, they are on an ambitious campaign to increase the accessibility of electroconvulsive therapy—which they say is a painless treatment that should only be used as a last resort for severe depression—but also to reduce the stigma of all forms of mental illness.”

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.