0.9 Ampere

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 – 7:30pm
Italy 2008. Director: Giotto Barbieri

0.9 AmpereVANCOUVER PREMIEREThe expressionistic, thought-provoking documentary 0.9 Ampere addresses a significant and controversial topic in the field of psychiatry: the use of electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT — often referred to as “electroshock.” The film traces the discovery of ECT in the late 1930s by Ugo Cerletti, a psychiatry professor at the University of Rome. At that time, there was little in the way of treatment for the growing number of patients housed in large psychiatric facilities. Under the mistaken impression that individuals suffering intermittent seizures due to epilepsy were immune from schizophrenia, Cerletti began using electricity as a way of inducing convulsions; 0.9 amperes was the amount of electric charge required to induce a seizure in a human being. Throughout the film, archival footage of psychiatric patients is projected onto the interior of what is now an abandoned and dilapidated asylum — successfully and eerily evoking the atmosphere of an earlier era. Artful recreations, rhythmic visual distortions, and a haunting, moody score serve to underline the dread and loss of autonomy experienced by the asylum’s patients. Opinions and reminiscences — by psychiatrists, an asylum attendant, and former patients — are provided as well. As the film shifts to the present, ECT’s current role in psychiatry is examined — its efficacy today still undermined by its appalling history. Colour, in Italian with English subtitles. 55 mins.

Post-screening discussion with Dr. Michael Wilkins-Ho, a clinician and physician leader for the Geriatric Psychiatry and Geriatric ECT Services at Providence Health Care. Dr. Wilkins-Ho is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Psychiatry, working in the Geriatric Psychiatry Program.

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.

Co-sponsored by Riverview Hospital Historical Society

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