ECT is in the news again, with vested interests pushing this barbaric torture device as an actual “therapy” and attempting to broaden its use by sneaking it in through the 21st Century Cures Act. Disturbingly, this proposal – given new life through a complicated and convoluted maneuver – just passed the House on Wednesday, November 30 and is headed to the Senate next.
Yet only 5 years ago, a seemingly decisive victory was won when it was decided by an FDA hearing that the machine could not be downgraded to a Class II medical device from a Class III device.
At that time, on January 27, 2011, The Department of Health and Human Services held an FDA advisory committee meeting regarding the use of medical devices, specifically the ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) machine. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of reclassifying the device and downgrading its danger from a Class III medical device (most potential harm) to a class II device, as benign as a condom or an electric wheelchair.
Testimony was given on both sides of the issue. Psychiatrists presented arguments in favor of expanding the use of the machine and its purported “benefits”. Those who had received these “benefits” testified in devastating detail how their lives had been ruined by having years of memories erased. An especially heartbreaking story was that of a woman who had been subjected to ECT treatment during post-partum depression. Afterwards, she no longer recognized her newborn infant or the husband who had admitted her for this “treatment”. Her husband divorced her and took the child with him.
Attorney Presents Clear Evidence of FDA’s Neglect
One of the first speakers to give negative evidence at the 2011 hearing was attorney Kendrick Moxon. Mr. Moxon’s testimony pointed out that in 1976 the FDA already recognized the dangers of ECT and “placed them in Class III, with the expectation that there would be a rapid evaluation of their safety and efficacy”.
Indeed, two years later in 1978 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) did a survey and discovered 41% of shock practitioners agreed that ECT did cause brain damage, with 14% of them asserting ECT should be stopped.
Apparently the FDA completely ignored the concern of those practitioners and in the following 10 years, no evaluation of any kind was made.
According to Mr. Moxon, the FDA has required the ECT manufacturers to submit evidence of safety and efficacy while at the same time the manufacturers left it up to the FDA “to prove something they could not”.
All during this mutual “You go first” arrangement, innumerable lives were cruelly altered and even lost.
Apparently over 1,200 articles proving the dangers of ECT treatment were ignored by the FDA on the sole basis that they were not from “randomized control groups”. Mr. Moxon states that “They disregarded 50 years of studies and reports because the studies were not formulated with a research technique that was almost never used when most of the studies were done…I hardly think that means those studies were worthless”.
There is something very fishy going on, especially with the evidence that the FDA’s Executive Summary found “Gains in efficacy are achieved only at the expense of increased risk of cognitive effects.” and “Little evidence exists supporting the long-term effectiveness of ECT.”1
Why would the FDA admit this in their summary without irrevocably banning ECT?
Another way of Pushing ECT: the 21st Cures Act
The 21st Century Cures Act, or HR 34 in it’s newly “amended” form, is a bill with the purported humanitarian intent of helping those with grave illnesses by making certain treatments available to them that otherwise they would not have access to.
But there is a definite danger: if this bill passes the House and Senate and is signed into law by the President, the door would be left wide open to weaken standards that are in place to approve prescription drugs and medical devices, including the ECT machine.2
As with all devices and drugs promoted by “authorities” and mercilessly advertised on TV, the internet and radio, the consumer must be vigilant.
Our society does not need a broadening promotion of ECT as mental therapy by psychiatrists who admit they don’t really understand what effects it has on the brain.
Thankfully there are psychiatrists who address this sham head on, like Dr. Peter Breggin, who writes:
“ECT (electroconvulsive treatment) damages the brain and mind. In many cases, it results in huge permanent gaps in memory for important life events, educational background, and professional skills. The individual may even lose his or her identity. Even when much less harm is done, individuals continue to suffer from ongoing cognitive difficulties with learning and remembering new things, and with unwanted changes in their personalities.” 3
Clearly, ECT is not a beneficial treatment, and anyone who proposes or practices it should be regarded as either wildly misguided or devilishly sadistic.