Dr Hindley’s Bookcase Part 5
Memoirs of a consultant psychologist.
There are a number of widely differing views on the use of Electroconvulsive Theapy. (ECT). This is a treatment whereby an electrical current is passed through the patient’s skull in order to alleviate one or more mental problems. Those who have been on the receiving end of it have likened the sensation to being hit on the forehead with a sledgehammer followed by deep dreamless unconsciousness. Opinion is divided on how it works, or indeed if it works at all, and the city of Berkeley in California banned the practice as inhumane for a while. Even so it is still widely used around the world.
I personally was of the opinion that ECT could be quite useful in that the patients sometimes became so terrified of it that they would do whatever they could to appear to be cured in order not to have to go through with it again. Also a few members of staff seemed to positively enjoy assisting with the treatment – I suppose it broke up an otherwise dull day for them.
However it was the use of ECT that very nearly undid all of my years of brilliant work. Allow me to elaborate my friends:
I’d been sitting in my consulting rooms one day, diligently filling out my expenses sheet, when Masterson, the hospital’s tame lawyer, came blustering in with a sheaf of papers in his hand. He was in a terrible funk and most agitated. “My God Hindley, what have you done”? he said. Well I had no idea what he was talking about so I sat him down and calmed him with a stiff brandy.
Once he had gained control of himself he explained that he had received notice that both the hospital and myself were very likely to be sued through the courts for gross medical incompetence. At first this seemed a mere trifle – people were always threatening to do that (The mad are remarkably litigious in that respect) but it never comes to anything. However this time it appeared to be a bit more serious.
It transpired that I had inadvertently stuck 350 volts through the cranium of the wrong person. Mr Beacon, the patient who should have received the treatment, had gone to the lavatory just as the orderly (who had only been on the job for a couple of days) arrived at his bedside, sitting along side of which was Beacon’s son who had come to visit. On being asked if he was Mr Beacon and having replied in the affirmative the unfortunate man had been dragged down to the treatment room where myself and ‘Old Sparky’ as we called the apparatus, awaited. And although he was loudly protesting, this was not uncommon in patients prior to this treatment, so we got him strapped down and ‘Whoossed the juice’. Now I have to admit that perhaps I should have recognised that he wasn’t one of my patients but I never really took much notice of the long-term residents, and anyway it was a genuine mistake, and it’s not as if we charged him – not in the monetary sense anyway.
Well this was a problem and Masterson was sure that it would go to court and that all sorts of horrible things would follow on from it. We had to find a way of delaying any civil action so I hit upon the idea of having myself declared insane thus avoiding a court appearance. An old chum of mine duly did the honours, the hospital suspended me on full pay so I wasn’t out of pocket, and I duly moved into one of the rooms.
With no work to do, three square meals a day, a cleaner and free electricity it wasn’t altogether too much of a burden.
My room mate was Mr Bennett who had been some form of banker in the city. Over time I got to know him quite well. He confided in me after about a week that he had been involved in some sort of terribly complicated form of embezzlement into which an investigation was taking place, and not wanting to be questioned about it, hehad actually pulled the same scam as me. I was astounded as only a week before I had been treating him for Lacunar Amnesia!
As it happened a friend of mine finally fixed it for me. – Sir Jimmy was terribly keen on hospitals and helping the vulnerable, and when not engaged in his charity work he also did something at the BBC. A thoroughly charming and decent man, although my assistant Miss Bloomsbridge never really took to him for some reason. Anyway, a few years previously I’d got him a set of keys for Broadmoor and organised a room there for him, and as he owed me a favour he pulled a few strings, the whole episode got buried and I was able to resume my career. So hows about that then?
Gary Moore “Churchmouse”