When man puts his health in the hands of another man's the risk is incalculable. This is why the medical field is ever changing, ever evolving and demands such intense study. The greatness of medicine is found in the fact that treatment today is the best it has ever been in history. There were times when amputations, the prescribing of toxic drugs, and even wizardry were used to "cure" patients. But the downside of this greatness is the fact that today's treatment will be tomorrow's joke and embarrassment. Treatment is even more deceptive in the world of psychiatry. It is in this field that doctors must combine both physical treatment and treatment of the intangibles of the mind. It is where philosophy collides directly with medicine. One of the most controversial treatments in the psychiatric field is Electro-convulsive Therapy (EST), also known as Electro-shock therapy. The success of this treatment has debated throughout the medical field for almost the entire sixty years it has been used. In Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance we read the account of Phaedrus" experience after having gone through the treatment and his subsequent recovery. Although this is just one account of the practice, it is conclusive that Phaedrus benefited from his treatment.
Electro-convulsive therapy is a treatment for severe mental illness in which a brief onslaught of electric stimulus is used to produce a seizure. In the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, the treatment was often given to the most severely disturbed patients who had been committed to large mental institutions. As often occurs with new therapies, ECT was used for a variety of disorders, frequently in high doses and for long periods. Many of these efforts proved ineffective, and some even harmful. Moreover, its use as a means of managing unruly patients, or whom other treatments were not then available, contributed to the perception of ECT as an abusive instrument of behavioral control for patients in mental institutions.