It seems very clear that ECT can cause at least temporary acquired prosopagnosia or severely impaired face memory:
“In this building I, I saw her maybe four times, I visited maybe four times, and um, she progressively got less aware of who I was. On one occasion she didn’t know me from Adam.”
That is a quote from an episode (titled “Mind Control”) in the television series Into the Mind, featuring Dr Michael Mosley (I very much like his TV work and the shows he appears in). The person the quote refers to had been an attractive English 21 year-old lady named Mary Thornton who was sent to a psychiatric institution by her parents after some family conflicts. Patients in that institution were given extreme and experimental treatments: deep sleep therapy, heavy regimes of psychiatric drugs and ECT. The doctor who dreamed-up these experimental regimes of psychiatric treatment was the ambitious and controversial psychiatrist Dr William Sargant, who apparently set out explicitly to destroy memory in his treatment and also reportedly had his own history of psychiatric illness (depression).
The person who spoke the above quote in the TV series was the then-boyfriend of the young lady who had been given the extreme psychiatric treatment. For a while after being released from St Thomas’ Hospital in London she forgot that she had ever had a boyfriend, but then the memory returned and she found his phone number. They met again, and have been together ever since. As you might expect, many of the other patients did not have such happiness in their lives following release from psychiatric care. Some never made it out of that hospital alive. Australian history has a similar horror story of very similar forms of psychiatric abuse, in the Chelmsford Hospital scandal, which led to a Royal Commission into Deep Sleep Therapy. Twenty-four Australian patients had died as the result of deep sleep therapy. The Australian version of Dr Sargant was Dr Harry Bailey, Chief Psychiatrist at Chelmsford Private Hospital. It is thought he was responsible for the deaths of 85 patients. Bailey killed himself before he could be held accountable for his crimes.
A quote from Mary Thornton:
“My memories are like snap-shots, one is the electrodes being touched to the side of my head, being given a general anaesthetic, seeing an image of myself in a mirror one day, seeing a strange face looking back at myself, and being really, really frightened that I would never get out.”
We must make sure that such medical abuse is never, ever allowed to happen again, in any corner of the globe.
Links to relevant info: