Human Rights Watchdog Demands No More ECT on Children

Citizens Commission on Human Rights protest

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) picketed the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in New York City to demand psychiatrists cease using electroshock — especially on children.

As APA members arrived for their annual meeting at the Javits Center in downtown Manhattan May 5, they were confronted by picketers from the psychiatric watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights. Grim reapers, the age-old symbol of death, marched through the streets of New York City alongside the irate protesters to make the point that American kids are at risk. The demonstrators demanded an end to psychiatrists’ use of electroshock on children.

Electroshock, or electroconvulsive treatment, sends vast quantities of electricity into the brain to induce a grand mal seizure. Documented side effects include short- and long-term memory loss, cognitive problems, unwanted personality changes, manic symptoms, prolonged seizures, heart problems and even death. There is nothing new about this treatment or its effects, the protesters state. It was invented in the 1930s and has been used ever since.

We are asking lawmakers to enact legislation this year that will ban the use of ECT on children.

Diane Stein, CCHR Florida President

The protest was prompted by the APA requesting the FDA to permit ECT on kids psychiatrists label as “treatment resistant.” The APA’s request is particularly serious, says CCHR, because kids they are calling “treatment resistant” are those who experience no improvement from drugs the FDA has already said should not be used on children. These drugs have a long list of side effects, some of them very alarming, such as increased depression and suicidal thoughts. Protesters say this could open the door for millions of children who have no positive outcome from these drugs or experience their side effects to be reclassified as “resistant.” They could then be forced to submit to electroshock.  

As hundreds of protesters marched from Times Square to Javits Center, passing cars beeped their support and many New Yorkers pumped their fists to signify their solidarity with these human rights advocates.

Joining their rally were teachers, nurses and other healthcare professionals and children demanding the right to be kids without the risk of being labeled with mental illness.

CCHR Florida President Diane Stein said, “Children are being drugged and shocked for behavior that in years past was considered to be normal childhood behavior. The labeling of our nation’s children is a human rights abuse. We are asking lawmakers to enact legislation this year that will ban the use of ECT on children. ECT is an unnecessary and harmful treatment, especially to the developing brain of young children.”

CCHR is also demanding that states be required to document and provide records of how many children are electroshocked each year. State Medicaid records, obtained by CCHR through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, reveal 16 states where electroshock is administered to children, including those younger than one year old.

For more information, call CCHR NY at (929) 344-2247.



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