Psychologists in Support of Ban on Electroshock

Citizens Commission on Human Rights marched in protest of psychiatry promoting the highly dangerous practice of  ECT

At the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego, California, human rights group demands an end to ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) and a nationwide ban against using the so-called treatment on children.

In a rally organized by the mental health watchdog group Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), marchers descended on the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Annual Meeting at the San Diego Convention Center to oppose the APA’s support of electroshock treatment, also known as ECT. With the participation of other groups, San Diego psychologist Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bart Billings and Texas psychologist Dr. John Breeding told the rally that electroshock, which is administered to 100,000 Americans every year, should be banned.

California was the first state to ban electroshock use on children in 1976, which CCHR was instrumental in helping to obtain. The group says the law set a global precedent for patients’ rights and they want California to lead the way again by prohibiting all use of electroshock, a practice that sends up to 460 volts of electricity through the brain.

Following the rally, Billings and Breeding opened the CCHR Psychiatry: An Industry of Death exhibit that documents the history of psychiatry and its use of electroshock and other destructive practices. The exhibit is open daily until May 27 in San Diego at 1047 J Street.

Between 2011 and 2015, the number of people receiving ECT in California declined from 5,766 to 1,936 — a 66 percent decrease. 

CCHR says the prohibition of ECT for those age 12 years and younger in California didn’t go far enough. At least eight adolescents in the state age 13–17 were subjected to ECT in 2015. Psychiatrists admit they don’t know how ECT works and that it doesn’t cure, but persist in using the practice that rakes in $2.5 billion a year. 

At the opening of the exhibit, Dr. Billings, author of Invisible Scars: How to Treat Combat Stress and PTSD without Medication, said: “I feel any treatment that destroys healthy brain cells, which ECT does, should be seen as criminal abuse.” He is concerned that members of the military and veterans are being given ECT, especially when some may already be suffering from brain injuries. Statistics recently obtained from Tricare and Veteran Affairs show 777 active members of the military or their family members and 1,006 veterans received electroshock in 2015.

Dr. John Breeding, Ph.D., an Austin, Texas psychologist, echoed Dr. Billings’ concerns. Breeding was instrumental in helping obtain a Texas ban on electroshocking children and adolescents younger than 16. “ECT is an absolute wrong,” said Breeding. “It is a true crime against humanity. It always causes brain damage, it always causes memory loss. It sometimes kills people, and therefore has no place in a ‘therapeutic’ environment. It should be banned.”

Fred Shaw, a native of Compton, California, whose work has been honored by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, is a former sheriff’s deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and now a spokesperson for CCHR. He stated: “The fact that in this day and age Americans, including pregnant women and children age five or younger, are still being electroshocked, should be of concern to everyone. It’s important for the public to be aware of the APA’s current push to widen the use of electroshock on children and be a voice to help stop this abuse.”

ECT Facts:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the ECT device, has never required the ECT device manufacturers, MECTA Corp and Somatics LLC to produce clinical trials to prove the device’s safety and efficacy. In response to this, last August, Jonathon Emord & Associates filed a Citizens Petition with the FDA Commissioner opposing the agency's proposal to reduce the risk classification of the ECT device and called for it to be taken off the market.
  • CCHR and thousands of patients it has represented reject psychiatrists’ assertions that ECT is now “safe and effective” compared to the days of the 1976 Academy-Award-winning film One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when Jack Nicholson’s character was electroshocked without anesthetic or muscle relaxant.
  • ECT causes a grand mal seizure, which the FDA reports can result in cardiovascular complications (including heart attacks), breathing complications, confusion, permanent memory loss, brain damage and death. Evidence presented to the FDA included studies of intercranial bleeding and loss of brain tissue following ECT.
  • study published in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatment in 2006 stated the “newer methods of ECT have not resulted in an appreciable decrease in adverse effects.”
  • This year, India banned the use of ECT on children as part of its Mental Health Act. In 2014, Western Australia banned ECT for those younger than 14 and imposed a $15,000 fine and two years’ imprisonment for anyone performing ECT on minors.
  • ECT does not prevent suicide. The 2014 Texas ECT Annual Report recorded six deaths shortly after ECT administration, four of which were suicide. A study of ECT in Texas found that suicide was the leading cause of death within two weeks post-ECT.

Citizens Commission on Human Rights was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry and Lifetime Fellow of the APA. CCHR is a 48-year mental health industry watchdog that has obtained over 175 laws that protect individuals against psychiatric abuse. A California State Assembly Recognition of CCHR states:

“The contributions that the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International has made to the local, national and international areas on behalf of mental health issues are invaluable and reflect an organization devoted to the highest ideals of mental health services.”



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