CCHR Initial Surveys of U.S. States Shows 5-Year-Olds Being Electroshocked

"Any treatment that destroys healthy brain cells; i.e., ECT, is criminal; it's child abuse. There are many integrative treatment alternatives that can be effective with children that do not destroy brain cells" —Dr. Bart Billing, Psychologist, Former Army Colonel

Mental Health Industry Watchdog Calls for FDA Intervention

Nov. 21, 2016

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a mental health industry watchdog group, is urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect children against the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) after initial results from the group’s nationwide survey revealed that five year olds or younger have been administered it. The FDA is currently considering reducing the high risk classification of ECT, which would make the treatment widely used, including on children. However, the agency has no current statistics on how many American children are even given ECT before making such a determination.

The FDA and American Psychiatric Association (APA) both rely upon the figure that 100,000 Americans undergo electroshock each year, but this statistic is more than twenty years old.1 The statistic doesn’t isolate how many of those are children and adolescents. The lack of transparency about the use of the controversial mental health treatment, which emits up to 460 volts of electricity through the brain, prompted CCHR to take it upon itself to get the facts. CCHR wrote to each state Department of Health and insurance companies, including TRICARE, the military health insurance company, requesting the information—something, CCHR charges, the FDA should have done.

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) provided CCHR its TRICARE statistics that revealed that between 2010 and 2016, children in the “zero to five” age group have been electroshocked. It’s unknown if any children of veterans covered by the VA Health Care Benefits have been given ECT. Kansas and Michigan were able to pull statistics of ECT’s use under Medicaid only, confirming adolescents were given ECT, but this is limited information. Other states simply admitted they don’t collect such statistics.

California, Texas and Tennessee collect ECT statistics but each has banned pediatric use of it.

Jan Eastgate, the international president of CCHR, said, “ECT device makers have never conducted clinical trials proving the device’s safety and efficacy, which should have then required stringent monitoring of its use by FDA, APA and state governments. However, this has not been done and, minimally, violates the FDA’s mandate to protect the public’s health.”

Eastgate points out that the FDA does not regulate medicine, so if the ECT risk category is lowered, even though FDA claims this would be for those 18 and older, FDA has no control over its use were this to occur. “More five year olds could be put at risk of electroshock,” Eastgate said. CCHR’s submission earlier this year in response to the FDA’s “Proposed Rule” to Reduce the Classification of the ECT Device, highlighted how already ECT is given “off-label” (unapproved use), including to autistic children.

“The FDA must take the step to protect children from the administration of ECT on- or off-label and must do its due diligence, as CCHR is, to collect the statistics on ECT use in children and adolescents,” Eastgate said.

Experts Speak Out

Many support CCHR’s request. Former Army Colonel and psychologist, Dr. Bart Billings, Ph.D., was appalled to hear that the children of our military are given ECT. He stated: “Any treatment that destroys healthy brain cells; i.e., ECT, is criminal; it’s child abuse. There are many integrative treatment alternatives that can be effective with children that do not destroy brain cells.”

  • Biomedical engineer expert Dr. Kenneth Castleman states: “It is difficult to imagine that a device that can run one ampere of electric current through a human brain can be as safe as [for example] electrocardiography. Anyone who has ever received an accidental electric shock knows the effect electricity can have on the human body.”
  • On August 24, 2016, constitutional attorney, Jonathon Emord, filed a citizen’s petition to challenge the FDA’s intention to reduce the risk classification of the ECT device. The FDA has never enforced ECT device makers to provide the necessary clinical trials proving safety and efficacy required to stay on the market. Mr. Emord’s petition says the FDA agrees that “scientific evidence was lacking regarding the effectiveness of ECT” for children and adolescents.2
  • The citizens petition also cites a 2014 study by Cheryl van Daalen-Smith, et al. who stated: “The ongoing and growing interest within psychiatry in prescribing electroshock or shock-like procedures for treating certain behaviors or conditions deemed psychoneurologic in children is of grave concern, given that the plethora of evidence that electroshock has at its very core an intent to damage and incapacitate the brain appears to be ignored.” The authors concluded that “given the volume of evidence demonstrating its substantive brain-damaging outcomes, we call for an immediate global ban on the use of electroshock on all children.”2

CCHR calls for anyone whose mother, wife, sister, or father, brother, son, child or friend has been killed or damaged by electroshock treatment or any staff or former staff of such facilities with knowledge of such damage to please write CCHR full particulars with any documentary evidence.


1 “Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT),” Mental Health America,

2 Jonathon Emord, et al., Citizens Petition to FDA, 24 Aug. 2016, p. 9,

Media Contact: Media Dept., Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, 323-467-4242,

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SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR)