CCHR Supports Attorneys' Challenge to FDA's Proposal That Would Allow Increased Electroshocking of Children and Adolescents

Press Release ( - LOS ANGELES - Sep 05, 2017 - The mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) announced its endorsement of attorneys Jonathan Emord and Kendrick Moxon’s opposition to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal to reduce the risk classification of the electroshock (ECT) device. The attorneys recently filed a supplement to the Citizens Petition they wrote last year to the FDA Commissioner, saying that any reclassification of the shock device would expand the use of electroshock that is already documented to cause brain damage and potentially death. Such a reclassification would mean a broader use of electroshock on children and adolescents that could endanger them, CCHR says.    

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is already lobbying the FDA for greater use of electroshock, claiming that it is “especially meaningful in children and adolescents.” The attorneys’ Petition and supplement refute this, stating that the FDA has never required clinical trials from the ECT device manufacturers that prove electroshock’s safety or efficacy. CCHR has also discovered through state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that children younger than five have been administered the procedure that the FDA has reported can result in permanent memory loss, cardiovascular complications, brain damage and even death. CCHR says no child should be given electroshock, especially as they are unable to consent or refuse it, and their parents are ill-informed of the treatment’s risks before “consenting.”

The potential damage from ECT is so great that in Western Australia their mental health law includes criminal penalties if ECT is administered to children younger than 14. CCHR helped obtained the first U.S. state law in California prohibiting the use of ECT on children and youths in 1976. Three other U.S. states, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas have since banned its use in children. Currently, CCHR has five more state representatives wanting to introduce similar laws in their states. It also has a petition online with tens of thousands of signatures supporting a ban. Sign the Petition here.

There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation.

World Health Organization

“Memory loss and brain damage are the central issues in the attorneys’ filing” to the FDA,” said Emord, who CCHR awarded its Human Rights Award this year for his work exposing ECT’s risks. He said, “The FDA has utterly ignored clear-cut evidence of brain damage, memory loss and death resulting from ECT treatments. ECT is barbaric and should be removed from the market.”

Emord and Moxon’s press statement says that “the original Citizen Petition was filed on behalf of five persons damaged by electroshock treatments. It requests that ECT be banned from the market or, at the least, that the Proposed Order be withdrawn as the manufacturers have never done pre-market clinical trials to prove it is a ‘safe and effective’ device. No other treatment in medicine is so subject to objection and protest by patients — so much so that when the reclassification was proposed, thousands of patients deeming themselves to be victims of the treatment, objected.” The Supplement to the Citizen Petition can be viewed in full here.

Although federal law and FDA orders in the 1970s required manufacturers of these devices to prove they were both safe and effective, the FDA never enforced the order. This, according to Moxon, has “allowed millions of persons over decades to be permanently damaged.” He further states, “Rather than enforce the law now, the FDA has proposed to simply change the law by reclassifying the devices, so no proof of safety or effectiveness need ever be provided.”

Emord said that the proposed reclassification is a radical and irrational departure from FDA’s prior precedent demanding rigorous clinical proof of safety before Class III devices (FDA’s highest risk classification) such as the ECT device are reclassified to permit more common use.) [1]

Electroshock Causes Brain Damage — FDA Ignores Evidence

The July 29, 2017, Supplement that the attorneys wrote on behalf of ECT victims, states: “The Proposed Order ignores completely the subject of brain damage. The FDA’s Executive Summary prepared for the Jan. 27-28, 2011 meeting of the Neurological Devices Panel respecting classification of ECT devices, notes that there were 289 reports of brain damage in the public docket. Issues relating to brain damage are located throughout the Executive Summary. Indeed, the Executive Summary notes that the manufacturers conceded brain damage was a risk of their devices, ‘including structural injury, brain cell injury, hippocampal damage.’ Thus, the unusual situation exists here, in which the manufacturers admit that brain injury is a risk of use of their devices, but the Proposed Order flatly and fully ignores the issue.”[2]

Psychiatrists refer to electroshock as electroconvulsive treatment or ECT because it involves the production of a grand mal convulsion, similar to an epileptic seizure, says Dr. John Breeding, a psychologist, author and founding member of The Coalition for the Abolition of Electroshock in Texas. “Medical doctors, as well as the building trades, do their best to prevent people from being injured by electrical shocks. People are given anticonvulsant drugs to prevent seizures because they are known to damage the brain…. ECT induces a grand mal seizure and it is obvious that ECT causes brain damage….The bottom line is that ECT ‘works’ to the extent that it damages and disables the brain.”

A History of Electroshock Child Abuse

Electroshock has a controversial history, but none greater than its use on children and in mind-control experiments that showed the potential to damage that should, then, never be inflicted on minors.

  • From early 1940 to 1953, a highly respected child neuropsychiatrist practicing at Bellevue Hospital in New York City experimented extensively with electroshock on 100 children ranging in age from three years old to 12 years, with some reports indicating the total may be twice that number. One six-year-old boy, after being shocked several times, went from being a shy, withdrawn child to acting increasingly aggressive and violent. Another child, a seven-year-old girl, following five electroshock sessions had become nearly catatonic. A 1954 scientific study of about 50 of the psychiatrist’s young electroshock patients, conducted by two psychologists, found that nearly all were worse off after the therapy and that some had become suicidal after treatment.[3]
  • The fact that it is well recognized the ECT was a tool for mind-control experiments is further evidence of why children should not be subjected to it. In the early 1950s and beyond, psychiatrist Max Fink, considered the godfather of electroshock in U.S., was a fully cleared CIA Project Artichoke mind-control consultant. According to one CIA document, the psychiatrist told officials “an individual could gradually be reduced through the use of electroshock treatment to the vegetable level.”[4]
  • In another CIA document dated 3 December 1951, it referenced a psychiatrist who said the standard electric-shock machine “could be used in two ways. One setting of this machine produced the normal electric-shock treatment (included convulsion) with amnesia after a number of treatments…he felt that he could guarantee amnesia for certain periods of time and particularly he could guarantee amnesia for any knowledge of use of the convulsive shock.” The second method was a lower current that would inflict “excruciating pain” that could make a person talk.[5]
  • The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in New York is currently the only place in the U.S. that uses painful skin electric shocks to control violently aggressive and self-injurious behavior. The device used is called a graduated electronic decelerator, or GED. According to an article in The Washington Post, “It’s aversive therapy of the most extreme kind, which the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture and the U.S. Department of Justice have condemned.”[6] In April 2016, the FDA proposed a ban on electrical stimulation “to protect public health.”[7] Yet the FDA has not followed through on this, nor has it withdrawn the ECT device from the market when there are no clinical trials submitted by the manufacturers proving safety and efficacy.
  • In 2013, the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, recommended “an absolute ban on all forced and non-consensual medical interventions against persons with disabilities, including the non-consensual administration of psychosurgery, electroshock and mind-altering drugs such as neuroleptics, the use of restraint and solitary confinement, for both long- and short-term application.”[8] As children do not have the “right” to consent or refuse psychiatric procedures, the use of electroshock on them is being forced on them, and constitutes “torture” according to this report and should be prohibited to protect their rights and mental faculties that ECT could damage.
  • In 2017, a U.S. psychiatrist told BBC News of an autistic child that since the age of 11 had been given 260 shock treatments, although the FDA has not approved ECT’s use on those with autism.

CCHR says that American psychiatrists and the FDA advocating for a practice as controversial and damaging as ECT are violating international human rights treaties. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reports, “Forced interventions, often wrongfully justified by theories of incapacity and therapeutic necessity inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are legitimized under national laws, and may enjoy wide public support as being in the alleged ‘best interest’ of the person concerned. Nevertheless, to the extent that they inflict severe pain and suffering, they violate the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment… It is essential that an absolute ban on all coercive and non-consensual measures…should apply in all places of deprivation of liberty, including in psychiatric and social care institutions.”[9]

For these reasons, CCHR says it will continue to fight for children’s lives, demanding that no state or federal law be complicit in allowing any psychiatric procedure to be used on children that may harm them. Electroshock, it says, has no place in the treatment of children, a fact that even the World Health Organization has supported: “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors, and hence this should be prohibited through legislation.”[10]

CCHR is a mental health industry watchdog organization that works for patient protections and encourages the public to take action against mental health abuse. In the course of its 48 years, it has helped get more than 180 laws enacted. As a nonprofit, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission and actions to curb psychotropic drug use in foster care. Click here to Support the Cause.

Contact: Amber Rauscher, or (323) 467-4242.


[1]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, Page 15,






[7] FDA Release, “FDA proposes ban on electrical stimulation devices intended to treat self-injurious or aggressive behavior,” 22 Apr. 2016,

[8] 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, Page 23,



Source : Citizens Commission on Human Rights International

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