Electroshock for Children Promoted at APA Conference
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
July 2, 2013
During the May 2013 annual conference of the American Psychiatric Association ( APA), a study was presented, alleging that Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT, (formerly known as Electroshock) for adolescents “is a safe, reasonably well-tolerated, and effective treatment.” Unfortunately, like all psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, these claims are dependent upon the psychiatrist’s interpretation – not scientific fact.
Keeping in mind that the APA cannot provide any science to support that even one of its alleged psychiatric disorders is a real medical condition, it is difficult to accept this new study with any level of credibility.
After all, if the psychiatric community cannot prove that a psychiatric disorder exists, how can it possibly prove that any “treatment,” specifically frying a child’s still developing brain with “therapeutic” electricity, is safe and effective?
In a nutshell, psychiatry’s theory of ECT is to induce, through electric current directly to the frontal lobes of the brain, a grand mal seizure, which will presumably “jump start” the alleged disordered brain. There are two glaring problems with the theory—no one knows how the brain works and, despite 70 years of research, nobody knows how ECT works.
The author of the ECT study, Dr. Chad Puffer, a general psychiatry resident at the Mayo Clinic, said “the idea that this is a barbaric treatment is typically perpetuated by those who have not seen the treatments as they are currently administered.”
Dr. Puffer is alluding to the horrific ECT “treatments” that were conducted in the past, when patients were subjected to high doses of “therapeutic” electricity with no anesthesia or medications, causing violent seizures, broken bones and even death.
Apparently Dr. Puffer justifies the use of electroshock on children, because “there are no tonic clonic (grand mal) movements that are typical of a full-blown seizure.” Beyond the psycho-babble, apparently the doctor is saying that because the child has been rendered unconscious and administered drugs to control the grand mal seizures, it’s okay because the procedure no longer looks barbaric. It’s still the same horrific, brain damaging procedure, it just doesn’t look as bad as it used to.
To come to his “encouraging” conclusions, Dr. Puffer looked at 46 patient records between 1993-2012, disclosing that most of the patients “were on at least 4 to 5 medications and, at a minimum, had experienced 3 medication failures prior to administration of ECT.” The age range of the study group was 12 to 19 years.
These data are mind-bending. Forty-six kids, between the ages of 12 and 19 were on “at least 4 to 5” mind-altering drugs? Dr. Puffer did not include any data as to when, in their young lives, these children began their excessive psychiatric drug regimens, nor does the doctor mention that most of the psychiatric drugs prescribed are not approved for adolescent use and may actually be responsible for the patients’ reported deteriorating and suicidal behavior.
The study did, however, conclude that “most adolescents who received ECT were able to reduce treatment intensity by 1 less medication… and on average, patients went from being severely or extremely ill to moderately or markedly ill.”
Again, in psychiatry, it’s all about the psychiatrist’s interpretation of success. Four mind-altering drugs instead of five and, voila, a child is better and only markedly ill?
Despite Dr. Puffer’s belief that the study was encouraging, beyond the fact that the psychiatrist believes that a child taking only four mind-altering drugs is an improvement, there was one other glaring problem with the results. No information was collected about the child’s cognitive status (memory, concept formation, language, attention, perception, problem solving, behavior, etc.) before and after the ECT “treatment.”
In other words, the doctor had no way to measure whether the “therapeutic” electricity “treatment” passing through the brain damaged the part of the region that gives an individual (in this case a child) the capacity to exercise good judgment, self-regulation, correct behavior and abstract thought, to name of few.
This becomes problematic when one considers that the prefrontal cortex, the frontal lobes, which is where the alleged “therapeutic” electricity is directed, and is referred to as the “CEO of the brain,” is one of the last regions of the brain to reach maturation and is not fully developed until the age of 25.
To make Dr. Puffer’s study even more suspect, despite a 1979 federal law requiring makers of ECT devices to prove to the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, that the machines are safe and effective, to date, none of the manufacturers have complied with the law.
100,000 Americans yearly are subjected to an ECT device that forces up to 480 volts of electricity through the brain, putting patients at risk of irreparable damage to the brain and other body systems and the FDA, which is tasked with insuring the safety of these devices, cannot assure the public that the ECT procedure is either safe or effective, simply because it refuses to enforce the law.
Ironically, the APA, the professional community that peddles opinion as science, rather than demand that ECT device manufacturers prove the machines are safe and effective, has petitioned the FDA to reclassify the ECT devices from Class III (the highest risk) to Class II in order to make it more easily available for subjective “success” stories like those provided in Dr. Puffer’s study.
But not all psychiatrists are buying the modern-day Electroshock-isn’t-so-bad hoopla. Dr. Peter Breggin, a psychiatrist, author and medical expert describes ECT this way: “Shock treatment is simply closed-head injury caused by an overwhelming current of electricity sufficient to cause a grand mal seizure. When the patient becomes apathetic, the doctor writes in the hospital chart, ‘No longer complaining.’ When the patient displays the euphoria commonly associated with brain damage, the doctor writes ‘mood improved.’ Meanwhile, the individual’s brain and mind are so drastically injured that he or she is rendered unable to protest.”
While Dr. Puffer’s study is sold as a glowing success, there is, of course, the problem with backing it up with scientific data, not subjective opinions. And while the FDA ignores its Congressionally mandated duty to protect the American people from harmful medical devices, the World Health Organization, WHO, did not mince words when it came to subjecting children to this barbaric “treatment.” “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation.”
Much to the detriment of America’s children, apparently Dr. Puffer, the FDA and the APA missed that memo.
Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award winning, former investigative reporter for the Washington Times, Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs – including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, Guns & Doses, exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.