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Electroconvulsive Therapy Unit

An unassuming Samsonite case was also found by another companion who thought it was a makeup case, but wondered why was there a lock on it. Upon opening the lid, she was surprised to find that it contained a portable ECT unit made by Medcraft.

ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy, or "shock treatment") was introduced in 1938 to provide relief from symptoms of schizophrenia and other illnesses, and was a very popular treatment in state hospitals across the U.S. until the 1970s. During the procedure, electrodes are placed near the patients temples, and an electrical current is passed through the brain's frontal lobes, with varying current and time as determined by the physician. An EEG is usually monitoring the heart rate during the procedure.

An immediate side effect are grand mal seizures, which at first resulted in a high rate of long bone dislocation; muscle relaxants and anesthetics were introduced in the late 1950s to reduce these convulsions. Despite the seemingly violent episode of the muscle spasms, side effects were reported to be relatively benign, with the worst being long term memory loss. The popularity of the tool led to routine shock treatments of hundreds of thousands of patients at the overcrowded state hospitals of the 1950s and 1960s, described by some as an "assembly line" on treatment days.

The 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest depicted an ECT scene which disturbed the public so much that the practice became somewhat of a taboo. A task force had concluded that ECT was sometimes used as a form of punishment at certain facilities, and regulations began to take place, most notably, informed consent. Antidepressants and other forms of drug/chemical therapy also led to the decline of ECT, however it is still used today to treat a narrow range of psychiatric disorders, albeit with some controversy as to its effectiveness.

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