Some people think that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), also known as electroshock, is one of those horrible treatments from yesteryear that civilized societies no longer undertake. However, approximately one million people around the world are given electroshock every year, including 100,000 Americans. Perhaps most disturbingly, some of the people who undergo this terrifying and risky treatment are children.
This statistic is set to rise as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) pressures the Food and Drug Administration to allow ECT to be used on children who are resistant to current drugs and therapies. The FDA is considering the draft rule, which will downgrade the risk of ECT from the highest category, Class III, to the only moderately risky Class II, placing it in the same category as condoms and contact lenses. That hardly sounds suitable when you consider the fact that the treatment entails sending jolts of electricity into the child’s brain, purposefully inducing seizures. It has been associated with serious side effects, including permanent memory loss, manic symptoms, heart problems, cognitive problems, confusion, breathing problems, brain damage and even death.
Should the FDA ultimately grant the request, more children will be subjected to this degrading and archaic treatment, which is said to have gotten its inspiration from the way pigs were given an electrical shock prior to slaughter to make them more docile and easier to kill. It is typically used on people who have depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even autism.
A muscle relaxant is typically administered prior to the ECT treatment, which is also dangerous for adults and children alike. The pulse of current that is delivered in modern electroshock treatment is 7.5 times stronger than the electrical fences that are used to deter bears. Don’t our children deserve better treatment than this?
Banned in other countries
Even the World Health Organization says it should be prohibited in its Resource Book on Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation. “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation,” it states. Making the situation even more outrageous is the fact that it has never been subjected to standard clinical trials to prove its safety or effectiveness. The practice is already banned for use on young people in Colorado, Texas, California, and Tennessee, along with India and Western Australia, where those who perform ECT on minors are punished by two years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
This calls to mind another psychiatric treatment that does more harm than good: antidepressants. Children are increasingly being prescribed antidepressants – sometimes for off-label uses – placing them at risk of suicide and subjecting them to a number of side effects. According to the LifeLink Health Plan Claims Database, 60 percent of kids are starting SSRIs at higher dosages than recommended. Those under the age of 18 have double the risk of suicide from antidepressants as adults, and they are largely ineffective. It’s hard to imagine anything other than profit motivating their continued use.
Not surprisingly, electroshock treatment is also a big moneymaker. Standard treatment entails anywhere from nine to 12 shocks, which cost between $2,000 and $2,500 apiece. When you perform some calculations using the conservative estimate of 100,000 patients annually receiving nine rounds of the treatment at $2,000 a pop, you’re looking at a $1.8 billion-per-year industry. Suddenly it all makes sense!
Discover more stories on medical violence against children at MedicalViolence.com.