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Donald Johnson on ECT

Donald Johnson presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Neurological Devices Panel examining the reclassification of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) devices on January 27, 2011. These are his remarks as published in the public record of the meeting.

I thank you for this opportunity. Forgive me my emotion. I was here at the FDA in 1985 and testified, and later on that year, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, had a two-day consensus conference on electroconvulsive therapy.

I don’t have a memory. I don’t know if it’s because I argued with a psychiatrist and he dumped me in the locked ward and shocked me five times. I became violent. I tore my nails off grabbing onto the door, and he said after five times, he says, sometimes they don’t help people.

The way I got in there was arguing with him. I had trouble with headaches. I’ve learned since then it’s because I was deprived of coffee. I had a drunken acting first sergeant that had confined me to quarters, and he got away with it, and I had headaches and I complained. So I’m psychiatrically labeled. But I became a physics teacher, and I have degrees in mathematics and physics for Carver Arnum Research (ph.) and I decided to go teaching physics.

I would ask any of these professionals here for the physics. You know, they say physics is an example. A little physics to see if there’s any — this is high school physics. High school physics. If I had a 15-pound baby, talking about 200 joules, and when they talk about low treatments, every one of you that’s involved in ECT knows that if they don’t make a grand mal seizure, it doesn’t count. Give it again. Turn up the voltage. All right. 200 joules. How high would I have to drop a 15-pound baby to have the equivalent of one shock treatment? All you professionals here. How high would I have to drop a 15-pound baby to have the same energy or how many pistol slugs would I have to shoot into its brain? This is just mechanical equivalence, high school physics. Anybody?

A joule is the energy of one kilogram being lifted a tenth of a meter. It’s equivalent to dropping a baby from a 10-foot high building.

At the 1985 National Institutes of Health conference, I gave them the Winchester ballistics sheet from Winchester and a Thymatron electroconvulsive device showing the energy equivalent to three pistol slugs to the head.

Now, they use autism to justify it and use depression. Did anybody watch the BBC with the G-20 last month? Obama was in South Korea, and BBC had a little spot on it, “The Devastated Seoul,” now one of the most thriving affluent societies, and they said how much appreciation. They went back and said, “But there’s a problem.” They’ve got the highest suicide rate in the world. Between the ages of 10 and 40, the major cause of death now is suicide in Korea. Is it because they need a shock treatment? It wasn’t like that before the war? Affluence.

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My mother had to help a baby that was dying from diarrhea and vomiting from the woman next door. She was a good woman, but she had been raised in daycare and she couldn’t bond to her baby. My mother was a teacher. So she cared for the baby during the summer, and it recovered and thrived.

We’re talking about depriving children and then punishing them for the effects, whether it’s autism or depression. Look into it. The breakdown of the home is what destroyed Korea. Yes, it’s an affluent society, the highest suicide rate in the world. You want to electroshock all of them? They pay now $1,000 a treatment.

They pay $1,000 a treatment. Somebody just said, professional testimony, we need a million people treated. $1,000 million we’re going to pay a year for this. Thank you.

Donald Johnson on ECT

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Donald Johnson on ECT. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 8, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
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