Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, loosely based on his own experience working in a state mental hospital, expressed for many the outrage of the antipsychiatry movement that peaked in the 1960s.
ECT was already in decline in the 1960s, due to the rise of psychopharmacology. New drug treatments in the form of chlorpromazine, MAOIs, tricylcics, and lithium allowed patients to be removed from mental hospitals; some psychiatrists suggested that ECT was over-used by physicians and mental health professionals. ECT was also attacked by a coalition of interests who opposed psychiatry in any form.
In the twenty year period between 1960 and 1980, patient accounts of ECT reflected the cultural changes. Instead of ECT as a miracle worker, many saw it as analogous to crucifixion.
When the morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death; and they bound him and delivered him to Pilate the governor…. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorian and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.
The ritual qualities of ECT often brought to mind crucifixion. In many cases ECT was scheduled in the morning, much like a ritual execution. When brought to the treatment room, patient’s limbs were extended – attached to electrodes, and an apparatus (or crown) was applied to their heads. They then receive between 100-170 volts of electricity, resulting in a kind of coma.
Literary accounts of the often invoked the imagery of crucifixion. Sylvia Plath recreated her experience own shock treatments in several places, including the Bell Jar:
The nurse started swabbing my temples with smelly grease…. Doctor Gordon was fitting two metal plates on either side of my head. He buckled them with a strap that dented my forehead, and gave me a wire to bite. I shut my eyes. There was a brief silence, like an indrawn breath, Then something bent down and took hold of me and shook me like the end of the world.
In a post-ECT conference with Doctor Gordon, she recalls moving a lamp with a frayed cord that electrocuted he creating “A small hole, blackened as if with pencil lead, pitted the center of my right palm.”  The stigmata associated with Christ’s crucifixion.
Plath reworked the theme in “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams” Like Christ, her character has been seized and brought before a group of high priests:
I see Johnny Panic’s top priests staring at me, … I lift my hand to reassure them, holding up my notebook, my voice loud as Johnny panics; with all stops out, “Peace, I bring you…” The Book. … The white cot is ready. With a terrible gentleness Miss Milleraverage takes the watch from my wrist, the rings from my fingers, the hairpins from my hair. She begins to undress. When I am bare, I am anointed on the temples and robed in sheets virginal as the first snow. Then, from four corners of the room and from the door behind me come five false priests in white surgical gowns and masks whose one lifework is to unseat Johnny panic from his own throne. They extend me full-length on my back on the cot; the crown of wire is placed on my head, the wafer of forgetfulness on my tongue. The masked priests move to their posts and take hold: one on my left leg, one on my right, one on my right arm, one on my left.
Ken Kesey who was a hospital orderly, envisioned ECT as crucifixion. Although the film version of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has been the American vision of ECT since 1975, in many ways it was Kesey’s 1962 book that brokers the change from the age of miracles to the time of crucifixion. In an early exchange from the novel, Randall McMurphy first hears about ECT:
HARDING: “The shock shop Mr. McMurphy, is jargon for the EST machine, the Electro Shock Therapy.”
McMURPHY: “what’s this thing do?”
HARDING: “You are strapped to a table shaped ironically like a cross, with a crown of electric sparks in place of thorns. You are touched on each side of the head with wires. Zap! Five Cents worth of electricity through the brain and you are jointly administered therapy and punishment for your hostile go-to-hell behavior, on top of being put out of everyone’s way for six hours to three days, depending on the individual.” (64-65)
Studies of patients show that many thought they were receiving ECT as punishment for their sins, one patient stated ‘They’re going to electrocute me for my sins…'” Another patient described his experience “A jolt of power jars you into the darkness of temporary death.” One patient asked another if he died in the shock treatment room. Another suggested that every ECT ” was (like) going through the crucifixion again.”
Curiously, in the absence of a therapeutic paradigm to explain how ECT actually worked, some practitioners suggested that making patients feel a little death was the reason WHY ECT worked! Ugo Cerletti, the inventor of ECT, formulated a theory that convulsions bring the organism to a state, which is close to death, thereby arousing a reaction of extreme biologic defense in producing a substance he called agonine, which created the therapeutic effect. 
Psychologist Thelma Alper thought “that the treatment threatened the patient with death and offers him an opportunity of rebirth cleansed of previous fear anxieties.” Other practitioners recognized that the oft reported and sometimes profound memory loss associated with ECT could be a means of death followed by the feeling of rebirth. And the co-founder of ECT, Lucio Bini went so far as to advocate blitz therapy. Give a patient thousands of Electroshocks until their old personality is destroyed. This fits the thesis proposed by psychoanalysts Otto Fenichel, who wrote
The author of this book has no personal experience with shock treatments. He has, however, personally experience in analyzing doctors who apply shock treatment. The (conscious or unconscious) attitude of the doctors toward the treatment was regularly that of ‘killing and bringing back alive again,” which idea, of course, provoked different emotions in different personality. It may be some that the impression the treatment gives to the doctors corresponds to the impression it gives to the patients. It seems they too, experience a kind of death and rebirth. Killing the sick person and creating the patient anew as a healthy person as an ancient form of magic treatment.
 Mathew 27: 1-2; 27-29 The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version New York; American Bible Society 1952
 Sylvia Plath, The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962 forward by Ted Hughes, edited by Frances McCullough, New York: Dial Press, 1982.
 Sylvia Plath The Bell Jar 162
 Thomas Szasz, The Age of Madness 315-
 ibid. 316
 Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest New York Signet 1962
 Millet and Moses found that patients treated by electric shock the treatment is desired because it felt to be a fitting punishment (341)
Jack Kerkhouff, How thin the view A newspaper mans story or his own mental crackup and recoveryGreenbergNY 1952, 10
 Cyril Kolocotrnis, “The Truth About Electro-Shock Treatments” Madness Network News Reader (San Francisco: Glide Publications, May 1973) reprinted in Freidberg 166
Quoted in Friedberg, 108-
 Lothar Kalinowsky and Paul Hoch , Somatic Treatments in Psychiatry: pharmacotherapy; convulsive, insulin, surgical, other methods New York Grune & Stratton 2nd edition 1952
 Thelma Alper, “An Electric Shock Patient Tells His Story” journal OF Abnormal and Social Psychology 43 (1948) 201-210
 Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis New York Norton 1945, quoted in Friedberg Shock Treatment, 138