electric shock, effect of the passage of a current of electricity through the body. Fatality may result from shocks of from 1 to 2 amperes and 500 to 1,000 volts. However, the effect of electric shock on the body depends not only on the strength of the current, but on such factors as wetness of the skin, area of contact, duration of contact, constitution of the victim, and whether or not the victim is well grounded. The general range of disturbances include a mild tingling (usually produced by common static electricity), spasm of the muscles, loss of consciousness, and sometimes death. In addition, burns occur where the current enters and leaves the body. A lethal dose of electricity may paralyze the respiratory organs and damage the central nervous system; the immediate cause of death, however, is usually an interruption of heart action. Electroconvulsive therapy is the use of electric shock to treat certain mental illnesses.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.