Consumers Betrayed: Electroshock Inflicts Pain

Excerpted from information booklet written for CCHR: ELECTROSHOCK – PAIN AND FRAUD IN THE NAME OF THERAPY  

Why is electroshock (ECT) continually dogged by controversy? Why is it that women, the frail elderly and children are psychiatry’s main targets for ECT? Where is the true weight of public and scientific opinion? Who profits from ECT? These are all questions that legislators and health insurance companies should be asking before blankly endorsing and covering its use—even against a person’s will.

Surveys of legislators and health insurance industry personnel in the United States revealed an appalling level of misinformation about electroshock. And ask the average person on the street about “shock treatment” and their usual answer is, “They don’t do that anymore, do they?  I thought it was out-lawed years ago.”

For those unfortunate enough to have had firsthand contact with electroshock—and I have personally documented hundreds of such cases—the response is more emotionally charged. The general consensus among former patients is that shock treatment belongs in the armory of a Gestapo interrogator rather than in the inventory of a “medical” practitioner.

People are not born shattered and incompetent wrecks. But, based on the many cases Citizens Commission on Human Rights has documented, electroshock creates them.

With the person reaching for help already grieving or in pain and vulnerable, the force of electric shock is nothing less than mayhem, an act of violence and the work of a cowardly brute. Violently shifting the person’s attention into the past, electroshock treatment deranges the electronic field around the body, precipitating poor health and physical difficulties and potentially shortening the life of the individual. That it is damaging and does not cure anything is, astonishingly enough, something that psychiatrists readily admit to in their own publications. Yet, it is not only revered by them, but is authorized, by state involuntary civil commitment laws, to be given to patients without consent.

Governments are unwitting accomplices to torture—based on psychiatry’s misleading information given to them to justify laws that allow ECT’s enforced use. There are no grounds for administering electroshock against a patient’s wishes. In May 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council’s report on “Consultation on Human Rights and Mental Health,” expressed such enforced practice as contrary to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and which may “amount to torture and ill-treatment” and laws allowing this should be repealed.[1] Additionally, the February 2013 UN Special Report on Torture also describes ECT without consent as “torture” and recommended “an absolute ban on all forced and non-consensual” use of electroshock.[2]

Only a few states in the United States and in Western Australia have to date banned its use on children. And yet is still given to children younger than five.

Psychiatrists don’t want electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to be called electroshock. The word “shock” carries too many true, but threatening, connotations. They are more likely to tell patients and legislators it’s “brain stimulation” or “electrotherapy” to blur any negative response. They’ll openly state they don’t know how it “works,” nor that there is any scientific reasoning for why it is a good idea to destroy healthy brain cells—and know so little about electricity that few, if any, could explain precisely how ECT kills brain cells.

The “modern” methods of “stimulating” (burning) the brain are not intended to help the patient, but to make the treatment easier on those performing the assault. Today, pre-ECT anesthetics and muscle paralyzes may suppress the screams and the thrashing bodies from up to 460 volts of electricity sent through the body. But none of these so-called “improvements” have done anything to lessen the brain-damaging effects of the “treatment,” despite psychiatric assertions to the contrary.

The words of the late Dr. John Friedberg, a neurologist and author of Shock Treatment are Not Good for Your Brain, still ring true today: “These ‘improvements’ are like the flowers planted at Buchenwald.”[3]  And while psychiatrists like to claim that ECT today is different to when Jack Nicholson’s character was electroshocked in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey, the author of the book, describes its best: “Electroshock therapy [is] a device that might be said to do the work of the sleeping pill, the electric chair, and the torture rack.”

Just as the torture rack would never be offered to consumers as a valid form of treatment, neither should electroshock. It should be banned and relegated to the history books. Sign CCHR’s Petition to Ban ECT here.

Jan Eastgate has been a devoted patients’ rights advocate for over 40 years, helping lead the mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) first in Australia and now as the president of its international headquarters in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. In Australia, she helped obtained the prohibition of a lethal psychiatric practice called Deep Sleep Treatment that combined psychotropic drugs and electroshock causing 48 deaths, including suicides. The New South Wales law also banned insulin shock treatment and psychosurgery. Her work with CCHR has resulted in dozens of government inquiries and laws being reformed to either curb abusive psychiatric practices or to speedily investigate and prosecute those committing them.



[2] A/HRC/22/53, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez,” United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Twenty-second Session, Agenda Item 3, 1 Feb. 2013, p. 1, Summary.

[3] John Friedberg, M.D. “Let’s Stop Blasting the Brain,” Psychology Today, Aug. 1975.


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