Saved by Electroconvulsive Therapy

Psychiatric illnesses remain among the most mysterious maladies that doctors encounter. In the emergency department we see only the ‘snap-shot’ of what is often a chronic illness with a roller-coaster course of ups-and-downs and pervasive psychosocial consequences. We rarely get to fully understand the big picture.

This enthralling TED talk by inspiring medical historian and surgeon Sherwin Nuland gives a detailed account of one man’s illness. He starts by recounting aspects of the remarkable history of electroshock therapy. He then tells, for the first time, of his own nearly hopeless battle with severe and refractory depression. Ultimately, with a prefrontal lobotomy looming on the horizon, he was rescued by one of the most maligned and feared of all treatment options: electroconvulsive therapy.

Nuland’s tale of his rise from the ashes is a valuable lesson in hope, humanity and recovery for both doctors and patients alike.


One of the most remarkable and beneficial reforms of the nineteenth century has been in the attitude of the profession and the public to the subject of insanity, and the gradual formation of a body of men in the profession who labour to find out the cause and means of relief of this most distressing of all human maladies

William Osler, Medicine in the Nineteenth Century: in Aequanimitas, 228

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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