Medical Error Interviews

Dr Susan Cunliffe: Escaping Psychiatry and ECT - A Physician’s Experience

August 24, 2020

In spite of our great science and medical advances in the last 100 years, what we know about how the body works is still embryonic. Especially when it comes to our body’s most complex organ - the brain - as Dr Susan Cunliffe can attest. 

Dr Cunliffe received numerous rounds of ECT - aka shock therapy -  each more powerful than the last, each designed to ensure Susan’s brain was assaulted so hard it had a seizure. 

The brain tries to protect itself from the convulsions and seizures caused by electricity - so it takes higher doses of electricity to induce the brain seizures. When Susan’s cognitive ability decreased after ECT, her symptoms were interpreted as worsening depression - not ECT induced brain damage - and she was given more ECT, causing more brain damage.


Psychiatry calls this a treatment. Others call it barbaric. 


But these are the facts:

Doctors don’t understand very much about the brain - for example, pharmaceutical manufacturers market antidepressant drugs on the idea that depression is a ‘chemical imbalance in your brain’ -- turns out, that’s not true, there is no evidence for a chemical imbalance as a cause of depression -- but that doesn’t stop 1,000s of unwitting doctors from prescribing them.

Doctors definitely don’t understand how electricity impacts the brain. Physicians don’t know how to treat the brain on any level beyond throwing powerful psych meds at it --  and they haven’t studied traumatic brain injury so they don’t know what symptoms to look for or how to recognize signs of injury -- yet they are allowed to put electricity through people’s brains.


Psychiatry, that embarrassing discipline of medicine that operates outside the usual rules of evidence based science or prioritizing patient safety, religiously defend their practice of jolting the brain with electricity so hard that it causes the brain to have a seizure. Like religion, it is based on faith, not facts.


In this episode, physician Susan Cunliffe gives an insider’s view of the UK medical system where their own data shows 1 in 5 ECT patients experiences severe and permanent brain damage. But that doesn’t stop powerful psychiatrists from continuing to electrocute people’s brains and call it ‘medical care’.


Listen to find out who Susan found to help her brain to heal, and what she’s doing to heal a broken medical system.


Connect with Dr Susan Cunliffe:

Twitter: @CunliffeSue


Headway (UK)

Head Injury - book - Trevor Powell


Drop the Disorder:

International support group ECT survivors:


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I am always looking for guests to share their medical error experiences so we help bring awareness and make patients safer.

If you are a survivor, a victim’s surviving family member, a health care worker, advocate, researcher or policy maker and you would like to share your experiences, please send me an email with a brief description: 

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Like me, many of my clients at Remedies Counseling have experienced the often devastating effects of medical error.

If you need a counsellor for your experience with medical error, or living with a chronic illness(es), I offer online video counseling appointments.

**For my health and life balance, I limit my number of counseling clients.** 

Email me to learn more or book an appointment:

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Scott Simpson

Counsellor + Patient Advocate + (former) Triathlete

I am a counsellor, patient advocate, and - before I became sick and disabled - a passionate triathlete. Work hard. Train hard. Rest hard.

I have been living with HIV since 1998. I was the first person living with HIV to compete at the triathlon world championships.

Thanks to research and access to medications, HIV is not a problem in my life.

I have been living with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) since 2012, and thanks in part to medical error, it is a big problem in my life.

Counseling / Research

I first became aware of the ubiquitousness of medical error during a decade of community based research working with the HIV Prevention Lab at Ryerson University, where I co-authored two research papers on a counseling intervention for people living with HIV, here and here

Patient participants would often report varying degrees of medical neglect, error and harms as part of their counseling sessions.

Patient Advocacy

I am co-founder of the ME patient advocacy non-profit Millions Missing Canada, and on the Executive Committee of the Interdisciplinary Canadian Collaborative Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Research Network.

I am also a patient advisor for Health Quality Ontario’s Patient and Family Advisory Council, and member of Patients for Patient Safety Canada.

Medical Error Interviews podcast and vidcast emerged to give voice to victims, witnesses and participants in this hidden epidemic so we can create change toward a safer health care system.

My golden retriever Gladys is a constant source of love and joy. I hope to be well enough again one day to race triathlons again. Or even shovel the snow off the sidewalk.


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